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Folk singer Mosbrook inspired by Woody Guthrie autobiography

Folk singer – Charlie Mosbrook will perform Americana and traditional folk music Tuesday night at the Fairview Park Branch Library. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Mosbrook)

By Kevin Kelley
Fairview Park

Charlie Mosbrook learned to play drums as a child and sang in the choir while attending Cleveland Heights High School. But the folk singer said he learned much of what he knows about music by jamming with other musicians.

“That’s sort of the folk tradition anyway,” he explained.

Mosbrook, 49, will be performing a blend of contemporary Americana and traditional folk music at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June June 6, at the Fairview Park Branch Library, 21255 Lorain Road. Those wishing to attend are asked to register at the library’s website at cuyahogalibrary.org or by calling 440-333-4700.

“I was raised in a home where jazz was everything,” said Mosbrook, the son of former Channel 3 News reporter Joe Mosbrook, who authored a book and hosts a weekly radio show on Cleveland jazz history. As a teen, Charlie enjoyed listening to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, but his interest in folk was piqued after a teacher suggested he read “Bound for Glory,” the partially fictionalized autobiography of Woody Guthrie, who to this day is among Mosbrook’s biggest musical influences.

Mosbrook began writing songs in high school. “It was a way of mixing poetry with music, which I loved,” he recalled. “A lot of it was self-realization, just discovering myself through the music.”

He became a street performer at 20 after moving first to Madison, Wisconsin, then to Chicago and New Orleans. Later, he regularly hosted open mic programs at the Arabica and Phoenix coffee shops in his hometown of Cleveland Heights.

Once a regular competitor in Ironman triathlons, Mosbrook plowed his mental energy back into music in 2010 when spinal cord deterioration took away his mobility and sense of physical balance.

“The doctors call it degenerative disc disorder,” he said, “which basically means they don’t know what happened.”

Surgery was required to prevent further spinal damage. Mosbrook said his ironman mentality helped him endure the intense physical therapy required for him to start performing again. He recalls he wore a cervical collar around his neck during his first post-surgical concert.

Today, Mosbrook can walk with a cane, but ongoing balance problems usually make it easier for him to use a wheelchair.

Mosbrook’s physical struggles influenced his songwriting, as exemplified in “Walking Ain’t Easy”: “Sometimes we choose the wrong path / Sometimes that path chooses us / Sometimes we lose much more than we thought / And sometimes our thoughts demand trust.”

Mosbrook said he hopes his music inspires listeners to choose their own dreams and overcome their own battles.

In addition to the guitar, Mosbrook plays the banjo, mandolin and dulcimer. Thanks to audio engineering courses he took at Lakeland Community College, he’s able to produce his records and those of fellow musicians in a small home studio.
Tuesday’s show at the Fairview Park Library will feature selections from his new album, “Hear Me Callin’,” a collection of American folk songs, including “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “The Times They are a-Changin.’”

 

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