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Review: Jug Band Extravaganza

This will be Driftwood’s final review for 2010. We hope all our readers have a safe and happy New Year. (Driftwood does not endorse any particular New Year. If you celebrate the new year on a different day, we hope you have a safe and happy weekend.)

Various Artists
Jug Band Extravaganza
[Folk Era (2010)]

For those who thought the late-1960s breakup of the Kweskin Jug Band meant the passing of an American musical tradition, the past two years have seemed miraculous. Paced by the release of the Todd Kwait-produced documentary film Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost, it seems as though the dams have broken through. A kid-friendly CD of jug band music was released by ex-Kweskin Jug Band member Maria Muldaur (“Barndance: Jug Band Music For Kids”), while her former husband and band-mate, Geoff, reunited with Kweskin for their first tour together in 32 years. The resurrection of this once-endangered musical style continues with Jug Band Extravaganza.

Recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, in 2007, during the San Francisco Jug Band Festival, in conjunction with the premier of Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost, Jug Band Extravaganza is guarantee to bring a smile to every jug band enthusiast. While the presence of Fritz Richmond, jug and washtub bass player of the Kweskin Jug Band, who passed away while plans for the concert were being made, is missed, his spirit permeates the show. Richmond’s Barbecue Orchestra kick things off with the Memphis Jug Band’s “This Will Bring You Back” and a swinging rendition of “My Old Man,” followed by a heartfelt mandolin/harmonica tribute by David Grisman and John Sebastian (“Jug Band Waltz”) and showcases of Geoff Muldaur’s 78-rpm-sounding vocals (“Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” and “Wild Ox Moan”). The party really swings into high gear with the arrival of the Kweskin Jug Band’s former leader and namesake. Focusing more on songs (“Sweet Sue” and “The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me”) from his 2003 album, Now And Again and classic tunes like Grandpa Jones’s “Eight More Miles To Louisville,” Gus Cannon’s “Stealin’,” and Jesse Fuller’s “San Francisco Bay Blues,” than on the Kweskin Jug Band repertoire, the Connecticut-born guitarist/singer lays down a primer on the fun-filled side of American folk music.

Though she reprises her vocals on Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues,” which she sang on the Kweskin Jug Band’s 1967 album, “See Reverse Side For Title,” and used as the title track of her 2001 tribute to the blues, Maria Muldaur’s vocals lack the smooth clarity of her earlier work.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

One comment on “Review: Jug Band Extravaganza

  1. […] also Driftwood's review of Jug Band Extravaganza, an album closely tied to the release of this […]

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