Jorma Kaukonen – River of Time

January 01, 1970

(Red House)


Jorma Kaukonen’s been performing apart from Jefferson
Airplane (he co-founded the band) for so long, it seems almost customary to
grin at his balmy acoustics while vaguely wondering if it’s time for a tuna
sandwich. With an approach closer to The Grateful Dead’s than to the harder
rocking/more acidic Airplane, Kaukonen has tended to mix cosmic-giggly titles or
artwork with a generally mellow vibe. Even Burgers,
his third Hot Tuna outing, and, in ’72, still pretty close to the
psychedelic/electric/’Frisco scene, could be used to calm a fretful toddler.  Thirty-eight years later, and two albums past
the critically-lauded and Grammy-nominated Blue
Country Heart
, Kaukonen is firmly settled by a sun-dappled brook populated with
vintage country blues, mid-century folk, and sporadic originals.


River of Time is a
shoo-in for tapping toes and knowing smiles from Kaukonen’s  mostly-aging/aged legion of fans, although
Fur Peace Ranch, the guitar camp he runs in Ohio, probably functions as young
hippie mecca as much as it does a school launching the journeys of acoustic
players – the idealist in one certainly likes to imagine so. The album shines
with charming little song after pleasant little tune. Whatever the genre, it
sounds like Jorma: The warm, offhand, confidential-sounding vocals, the melted
butter of his perfectly toned, careful finger-picking.


The only suggestion a critic might advance is this: A change
in vocalist, at least every three songs, could provide some bracing
refreshment. What shifts there are help polish this apple. Instrumental “Izze’s
Lullaby” is as lush as a spring meadow dancing with bluebonnets without ever
sounding overfull of mandolin, guitar, or banjo – in fact, instrumentation is
so beautifully blended, exact dissection is rather difficult if not
beside-the-point. Dueting with Teresa Williams on Mississippi John Hurt’s “Preachin’
on the Old Campground” is a sound move that may even lead to some
twang-enamored converts. Levon Helm, whose Woodstock studio hosted the
proceedings, donates his unmistakable thump to the Merle Haggard number, “More
Than My Old Guitar,” and helps turn the traditional “Trouble in Mind” into
rather a barn-burner. Kaukonen’s restrained vocal makes the wry “Another Man
Done a Full Go Round” convincing. The title tune, which announces itself with a
conversation between Kaukonen’s guitar and Larry Campbell’s wood-paneled
fiddle, is particularly winning. And “Simpler Than I Thought” is so nice, and,
well, serene, it could be used to calm a fretful adult – I have proof.


DOWNLOAD: “River of Time,” “Trouble in Mind,” “Izze’s
Lullaby,” “Another Man Done a Full Go Round” MARY LEARY






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