Jorma Kaukonen's revival of his partnership with Jack Casady of Hot Tuna over the last decade has also inspired him as a solo musician. The guitarist/vocalist/composer has produced the Grammy
-nominated Blue Country Heart
(Columbia, 2002) as well as the splendid Stars in my Crown
(Red House, 2007). River of Time
is an even more heartfelt and sympathetic collaboration.
The melancholy melody and heartrending lyrics of Hot Tuna's vintage "Been So Long" sets the tone for the CD in its crystal-clear acoustics. Kaukonen and producer/accompanist Larry Campbell expand upon that sound immediately with "There's A Bright Side Somewhere," a resolute statement of optimism couched in bright mandolin and simple drum work.
The blues has always been at the heart of Kaukonen's best music, even when he performed as lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane, and its tart texture, as well as the storytelling element of the genre, surfaces in the worldly-wise "Cracks in the Finish." Campbell graces that cut with fiddle, while "Another Man Done a Full Go-Round" is an acoustic guitar duet, the jaunty gait of which reaches full flow when Kaukonen and Campbell interact.
The pace of the album becomes a full swagger on "Trouble in Mind," when the two combine with mandolinist Barry Mitterhof, a regular partner of Kaukonen's in recent years, as well as that of former The Band drummer, Levon Helm
. Traditional tunes have their own intrinsic warmth, but the cozy confines of Helm's Woodstock barn studio, this recording's site of operations, solidify a truly fraternal feel to the ensemble's work.
Add "Izze's Lullaby" to the list of notable instrumentals in the Kaukonen canon, along with "Embryonic Journey" and "Water Song." A tribute to the artist's young daughter, the gentle dance of the melody and its intertwining rhythm meshes with extra strings to emphasis its tenderness. "A Walk with Friends" radiates a similar tranquility to which the title song and "Simpler Than I Thought" also allude, particularly when reinforced by Campbell's warm steel guitar.
A witty take on "More Than My Old Guitar" features Teresa Williams' sweet-toned voice, appearing even more prominently in harmony with Kaukonen on "Nashville Blues." The simplicity of such arrangements on River of Time belies their intricate musicality because the musicianship is inspired and unaffected by any grandstanding.
Personnel: Jorma Kaukonen: guitars, vocals; Larry Campbell: guitar, baritone guitar, tenor guitar,
Resophonic guitar, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, cittern, percussion; Barry Mitterhoff: mandolin,
banjo, tenor guitar; Levon Helm: drums; Justin Gulp: drums; Myron Hart: bass, vocals;
Lincoln Schleifer: bass, vocals; Teresa Williams: vocals.