Personnel: Sarah Lee Guthrie (vocals, guitar, piano); Johnny Irion (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano); Sarah Lee Guthrie; Johnny Irion; Tao Rodriguez (vocals, 12-string guitar); Michael Merenda (vocals, banjo); Ruth Ungar (vocals, fiddle); Christopher Merenda, Pierce Woodward (vocals); Eric Heywood (pedal steel guitar); Jay Ungar (fiddle); Greg Readling (piano); Marc Perlman (bass guitar); Zeke Hutchins (drums); Gary Louris (guitar, background vocals); Dave Boquist (banjo, fiddle).
Additional personnel: Tao Rodriguez, Christopher Merenda, Jay Ungar, Michael Merenda, Pierce Woodward, Ruth Ungar.
When your last name is Guthrie, people are going to have certain expectations about your music, but Sarah Lee Guthrie (Arlo's daughter) and her husband and musical collaborator, Johnny Irion, have managed to make an album that speaks to her personal heritage while possessing a strong aural personality of its own. Exploration is a collection of songs filled with the easy charm and home-truth honesty of postwar folk music, and even boasts a new tune by family friend Pete Seeger, as well as originals from Guthrie and Irion that confront war, poverty, and other social ills with a gentle but firm insistence. But Guthrie and Irion also display a stronger musical backbone than their semi-folkie ways might suggest; Exploration was produced by Gary Louris of the Jayhawks in collaboration with engineer Ed Ackerson, and Louris brought along several of his bandmates to play on the sessions, so it's no surprise that the album displays some of the twangy lan of Tomorrow the Green Grass or Sound of Lies. But it also has a playful campfire singalong quality that's obviously Guthrie and Irion's doing, without undercutting the potent if understated rock & roll energy of tunes like "Gervais" and "Gotta Prove." Exploration is a high-energy post-millennium hootenanny that adds some high-kicking fun to the passionate and playful folk-rock that's Guthrie and Irion's natural stock in trade; it's as homey and refreshing as iced tea on an August afternoon, and equally satisfying. ~ Mark Deming
Dirty Linen (p.48) - "Marc Perlman's walking bass, and producer Gary Louris' charismatic lead electric guitar and backup vocals, along with the Mammals, make for a lively grain out of which sprouts Guthrie and Irion's idiosyncratic first hoot."