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Commentary: Livin' in Liverpool June 9

Despite being diagnosed with cancer in December 2008, hammered dulcimer dynamo Dan Duggan now's on the mend and making marvelous music!

Dan, who's pretty skinny to begin with, lost lots of weight and even shaved off his beard because he had neck cancer, but he performed selected dates last summer as he recovered from the dread disease thanks to radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

The 53-year-old musician will perform a concert of folk tunes, acoustic original compositions and old Irish airs at 7 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, June 9, at Johnson Park.

Duggan's appearance is the second of 24 free concerts scheduled by the Liverpool is The Place Committee at Johnson Park this summer; liverpoolistheplace.com.

Dan will be accompanied here by guitarist Tom Hodgson and fiddler Henry Jankiewicz. I heard the trio perform last Sept. 5 on the lawn at the Start Fair's Agricultural Museum when they drew listeners from Restaurant Row with reels such as "The Wind Shakes the Barley" and "The Hangman's Reel," plus tunes such as Stephen Foster's "Nellie Bly."

Though he started out in the mid-1970s as a guitarist, Duggan was captivated by the ringing tones of the trapezoid-shaped dulcimer 42 years ago, and he has never looked back. In 1985, he was crowned National Hammered Dulcimer Champion at the National Fiddle, Flat- and Finger-picking Contests, staged annually at Winfield, Kan.

"I won that contest playing all original music, so that's a real feather in my cap," he observed. "It helped get me a national spotlight." Since then, he has performed at countless folk festivals and released 20 albums, including his two newest: Jamcrackers with his wife, Peggy Eyres, and guitarist Dan Berggren, and National Champions, an anthology of Winfield wonders.

But 2009 was one heluva year for the musician who once recorded with Paul Simon. On April 24 this year, Dan marked his one-year anniversary of completing cancer treatments at Clifton Spring Cancer Center.

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