The singer and songwriter plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, at Jackson Wellsprings, 2253 Highway 99 N. Admission costs $10.
What was the process behind your new album, "Hillbilly Hook?"
It's really me getting back to my roots. I grew up outside Charlottesville, Va., and it's an area that has a lot of that country, old-timey music like The Stanley Brothers. It was produced by Peter Rowan (vocalist and guitarist from bluegrass supergroup Old and in the Way).
How'd you start performing music?
I went to Columbia University and escaped from the South for a bit. I was studying literature and poetry with the intention of becoming an English teacher. After I graduated, I got a job in Nashville, where I was reintroduced to music. I lived near Music Row, and that's where I met Peter. He introduced me to Bill Monroe and took me to the Grand Ol' Oprey. I was teaching English by day and jamming with these guys on the guitar at night. With the Vietnam War, I left academia and started writing protest songs and protesting the war. The stories and novels I studied made me a storyteller, and the poetry helped me become a better lyricist.
Do you still have political themes in your songs?
I still do some political songs, but for this album I found myself moving more toward historically influenced songs. They're stories that I made up, that are rooted in American history. I'm going to be 73 this year, and I'm realizing that songs are stories. I think I've got some interesting stories to tell. They're made up, but I still think they're interesting. I have one song, called "Road to Oregon," where I tell the story of a man from Arkansas who heads west to Oregon to escape the Civil War. Along the way, he kills some indians, so the song takes the form of him confessing these things to his son. I incorporated an Arapaho prayer into the song, too.