Jorma Kaukonen Celebrates the Release of His Columbia Records Debut Blue Country Heart
Album In Stores Tuesday, June 11
Tour Begins Thursday, June 13 at Bottom Line in New York City
NEW YORK, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Masterful guitarist and renowned blues scholar Jorma Kaukonen will be joined on tour by Blue Country, a rotating ensemble which includes guitarists Sally Van Meter, (Taj Mahal, David Grisman) Cindy Cashdollar, (Asleep at the Wheel) multi instrumentalist G.E. Smith, (Sat. Night Live, Bob Dylan) and mandolin virtuoso Barry Mitterhoff. Kaukonen's solo tour begins Thursday, June 13, at the Bottom Line in New York City (see itinerary following). Blue Country Heart, Kaukonen's debut recording for Columbia Records, will be in stores Tuesday, June 11.
On Blue Country Heart, Kaukonen explores a little known chapter in American music history. Blue Country Heart is collection of rural blues songs from the 1920s and 1930 written mostly by white tunesmiths including Jimmie Rodgers, the Delmore Brothers, Slim Smith, Washington Phillips, Cliff Carlisle and Jimmie "The Singing Governor" Davis.
Jorma recorded Blue Country Heart in the studio with a crew all-star Nashville players including Sam Bush on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Byron House on upright bass. Special guest Bela Fleck plays banjo on two tracks.
As a charter member of Jefferson Airplane and the equally legendary (and still active) Hot Tuna, Jorma's playing has always been steeped in the music of such Delta blues legends as Robert Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell and most importantly the Piedmont style gospel player Rev. Gary Davis, whose songs he has reintroduced to a new generation of appreciative fans. On Blue Country Heart, Jorma engages the tradition of early country music.
"When I started out playing the guitar I was playing a lot of old-timey music and what passed for bluegrass in the '50s," says the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. "It's not really blues in the traditional blues sense," Kaukonen explains, "although that's pretty much where I am coming from as a player. There is a bluegrass flavor to it because of the guys involved in the sessions, but it's not bluegrass in a strict, traditional sense either. It's a lot of this singer-songwriter stuff from the Depression era that has stuck with us over time." Perhaps the difficulty in categorizing this music speaks to its roots. These songs offer a timely look at how black and white people, especially musicians, were actively intermixing at a time when racial segregation was still very much in force and would be for decades to come.
The common thread running through all of this early American material is that the tunes invariably combine memorable melodies and straightforward storytelling. "Stylistically it's very eclectic stuff but the tunes really register with people in the way that great folk songs do," says Kaukonen. "A lot of these tunes are just part of our cultural subconscious as Americans. Like Jimmie Davis' 'You Are My Sunshine.' Now that's a song that most people know because it's been passed down through the generations, but probably not too many people know that it was written by the former 'Singing Governor of Louisiana.' That's a bit of trivia that escapes most people but the tune has stayed with us."
"Of course, I knew the stuff by Jimmie Davis ("Red River Blues") and Jimmie Rodgers ("Waitin' for a Train," "These Gambler's Blues," "I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now" and "Me and My Old Guitar,"), says Kaukonen, "but others I wasn't familiar with, like The Shelton Brothers and Slim Smith. I had heard of the Delmore Brothers because they're supposedly the vocal precursors to the Everly Brothers but I never was really familiar with their material. Washington Phillips ("What Are They Doing In Heaven Today") is someone who (fellow guitarist) G.E. Smith turned me on to last year, although I had heard some of his stuff before. He played an odd-sounding instrument called the dulceola, which is a cross between a zither and an autoharp, and I always thought, 'Man, what is that thing he's playing?' So I ended up performing old favorites as well as learning a bunch of cool tunes for this project. It was an educational experience as well as a personal pleasure."
Tunes like Jimmie Rodgers' "These Gambler's Blues" and "Waiting For A Train" and the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me" exude a casual back porch jam aesthetic while invigorating vehicles like Jimmy Davis' "Red River Blues," the Delmore Brothers' "Big River Blues" and Cliff Carlisle's "Tomcat Blues" showcase the instrumental virtuosity of all the players on this all- star session. A natural storytelling quality permeates all the material and in some cases carries a decidedly political point of view. "Prohibition Blues" speaks in biting terms of the government's futile efforts to enforce the 18th Amendment forbidding the manufacture and sale of liquor from 1920 to 1933: "Prohibition has killed more folks than Sherman ever seen/If they don't get whisky they'll take to dope, cocaine and morphine/This ol' country it sure ain't dry and dry will never be seen/Prohibition is just a scheme, a fine money-making machine."
Similar political commentary comes on Slim Smith's "Breadline Blues," a Depression era anthem whose sprightly bounce belies the pointed content of it's lyrics: "All of us good folks are in distress and I'm gonna get something off my chest/1932 won't be long when you place your votes please don't vote wrong/vote away the blues, the breadline blues/It's a rich man's job to make some rules in order to rid my breadline blues/Now listen here folks and it ain't no joke we gotta do something or we're all gonna croak/Can't get a job, we've all been robbed/Ain't got no money and the corn's all cob."
Elsewhere on Blue Country Heart, Jorma sings sweetly on Jimmie Rodgers' hymn-like ode to his lifelong companion, "Me and My Old Guitar," strikes a poignant note on Washington Phillips' reflective ballad, "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today," and barrels his way through a spirited bluegrass rendition of The Shelton Brothers' "Just Because," which features some sizzling exchanges between Bela Fleck's old-time banjo licks and Jerry Douglas' sliding dobro.
The Blue Country Heart sessions took place at the famed Masterlink studio, the site of seminal recordings by the likes of Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton. "We did 16 songs in four days," says Kaukonen. "The studio has one of those Nashville histories. They had fabulous equipment, the room is real beautiful sounding and everything we did was completely acoustic. I used my 1936 Advanced Jumbo Gibson and Sam had some mandolin from the '20s. Lord knows what Jerry had, there was a huge battery of vintage dobros on hand for the sessions. Byron was playing a standup bass that was over 100 years old and Bela came in with a banjo from the late '30s. So we had a bunch of vintage acoustic instruments and we just went in and set up, got comfortable in the room and played. And I never wore headphones once during the session. It was just like sitting and playing at home."
The relaxed down-home feel of the sessions has been beautifully captured in direct stream digital Super Audio CD (SACD) by producer Roger Moutenot. You can feel that sense of immediacy and warmth on every track of Blue Country Heart. "I've always wanted to do an old-timey traditional record with some of my old Nashville pals," says Kaukonen. Blue Country Heart is really a dream come true."
Jorma Kaukonen Blue Country Heart Tour 6/13 Thursday The Bottom Line New York, NY With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 6/14 Friday Painted Bride Philadelphia, PA With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 6/16 Sunday Stephen Talkhouse Amagansett, NY With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 6/17 Monday House of Blues Boston, MA With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 6/21 Friday Arcata Theater Arcata, CA With Cindy Cashdollar & Barry Mitterhoff 6/22 Saturday Mystic Theater Petaluma, CA With Cindy Cashdollar & G.E. Smith 6/23 Sunday Fillmore San Francisco, CA With Sally Van Meter & G.E. Smith 6/25 Tuesday Rio Theater Santa Cruz, CA With Sally Van Meter & G.E. Smith 7/6 Saturday McCabes Los Angeles, CA With Sally Van Meter & G.E. Smith 7/7 Sunday McCabes Los Angeles, CA With Sally Van Meter & G.E. Smith 7/12 Friday PNC Arts Center Holmdel, NJ With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 7/17 Wednesday Harbor Center City Portsmouth, VA With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 7/18 Thursday Merriweather Post Merriweather, MD With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 7/19 Friday Hershey Park Hershey, PA With Sally Van Meter & Barry Mitterhoff 7/20 Saturday Shelbourne Museum Burlington, VT With Cindy Cashdollar & Barry Mitterhoff 7/21 Sunday Meadowbrook Farms Guilford, NH With Cindy Cashdollar & TBA 7/26 Friday Boston Harbor Boat Cruise Boston, MA With Cindy Cashdollar & Barry Mitterhoff 8/22 Thursday J & R Jazz Fest New York, NY With Cindy Cashdollar & Barry Mitterhoff 9/19 Thursday Merkin Hall New York, NY With Sally Van Meter & TBA 9/20 Friday Fleet Center Boston, MA With Sally Van Meter & TBA 9/21 Saturday PNC Arts Center Holmdel, NJ With Sally Van Meter & TBA 9/22 Sunday Jones Beach Wantagh, NY With Sally Van Meter & TBA
SOURCE: Columbia Records
Contact: Diane Connal of Connal Publicity, +1-212-260-8355 or
firstname.lastname@example.org; or Howard Wuelfing of Columbia Records, +1-212-833-8891