TULSA — Imagine, if you will, a musical matchup of Oklahoma City's world-famously weird psych-pop show band and one of the quintessential stars of the sensitive singer-songwriter school of 1970s Los Angeles, covering the vintage folk songs of a historically revered Dust Bowl troubadour from Okemah.
In short, the Flaming Lips and Jackson Browne singing a song by Woody Guthrie. Together. Onstage.
Sound like science fiction? Well, you won't have to imagine this mind-boggling marriage of styles after attending “This Land Is Your Land: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration” Saturday night at Tulsa's Brady Theatre.
The unlikely pairing of the Lips and Browne will happen before your very eyes, along with performances of Guthrie's songs by John Mellencamp, Woody's son Arlo Guthrie, Rosanne Cash, Del McCoury Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Hanson, Tim O'Brien and Jimmy LaFave.
“We've kinda become friends with him over the past three or four years,” Coyne said of Browne in a phone interview from his home in midtown Oklahoma City last week.
“He had played this show out at the Zoo, I think it was right after we had played there (September 2006), and he gave us a shoutout. And of course through Twitter and all these sorts of things you can find out immediately what someone says, and we thought it was just a fun thing that Jackson Browne had acknowledged us, you know, because we're from Oklahoma City, and said hello to us.”
By happy coincidence, Lips manager Scott Booker ran into Browne at Will Rogers World Airport, and the band and the L.A. balladeer got to know each other and started hanging out together whenever their paths crossed. There was even talk between them of a possible musical collaboration, but opportunities were scarce — until they were all invited to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birthday.
“You'd think, well, why would Jackson Browne and The Flaming Lips be together? Well, 'cause he's a cool guy, and that usually is good enough for us,” Coyne said. “I mean, obviously, we like his music as well, but you don't really get a say in what circles you get to hang out in all the time. And someone like Jackson Browne, you don't (often) get to go up and say, ‘Hey, you wanna go out to dinner and get drunk or something?'”
Impressed by story
Just as unlikely as the Lips-Browne duet is the idea of Wayne “Christmas on Mars” Coyne and company — who grew up on a steady diet of the Beatles, the Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd — covering the back-roads, freight-hopping folk tunes of Woody Guthrie.
“Well, I think we've all heard versions of his songs probably more than we've even heard him doing his own songs,” Coyne said. “I forget which ones we would hear when we were in school. ‘This land is land is your land, this land is my land, from California' … I think that's probably the one that when we would be singing it, even in school, that I remember thinking that that's a Woody Guthrie song. … But I don't know. I'm more impressed by his story and what he's all about.”
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This Land Is Your Land: A Woody Guthrie Centennial Concert