Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band had released two or three albums by the time Jim decided to put out this solo release.
Though it's not really "solo" just Jim and some of his band in a less raucous mood. The album was recorded live in the studio (with two tracks, "I Got Mine" and "Buffalo Skinners" recorded live at Club 47 in Cambridge. Massachusetts) by a truncated version of the Jug Band (Jim Kweskin on vocals and guitar, Mel Lyman on harmonica, and Fritz Richmond on washtub bass).
I suspect there were traditional tunes that Jim wanted to tackle that didn't fit the full band sound
Again, the band sound loose but aren't. They practiced a lot to sound this relaxed and loose. And you have to. For the music to come out naturally there can't be worries about the musicianship.
This album covers the pre-rock American songbook … there is ragtime, country, blues, a cowboy song, gospel, Tin Pan Alley and even a Zulu folk song.
All done in Jim's jug band style, though low key and quiet.
Jim once said, "What jug band music is: if you had to boil it down to one thing, it’s really jazz played on folk music instruments. That was the difference between the jug band and the other “folk” music that was going on at the time" (http://thebuskersblog.typepad.com/the_buskers_blog/2015/09/jim-kweskin-on-the-jim-kweskin-jug-band.html)
And that applies here though instead of the full jazz band this is the jug band equivalent of a trio playing cool jazz..
The harmonica of Mel Lyman is amazing whilst Fritz Richmond keeps the beat on the washtub bass. But, central to it all is Jim Kweskin with his acoustic guitar and vocals tha are both of another time and keenly contemporary.
The material may have been old but the melodies, emotions and narratives within the songs do resonate now, as they would have in 1966.
His audience was marginal then and now it may be still be , though with the internet it may be larger, but a song (or recording) should have a life beyond when it was written or recorded. We (the masses) look and "old" paintings, don't we? We read classic" novels, don't we? We (sometimes) even watch films form the "golden years of cinema", don't we? They why not listen to old music? Double old here … a singer in 1965 singing old music. I hear people saying, I listen to Led Zeppelin or I listen to Queen but that is more of a case of listening to music that was around when you were young that you still listen to now. The time has come to dig deep and go for something that was around before you were born.
Good music is good music regardless of its age and it is "new" if you haven't heard it before even if it was recorded fifty years ago.
Jim Kweskin (born July 18, 1940, Stamford, Connecticut) played solo in coffee houses throughout the early folk boom before forming The Jug Band. The group broke up in the late 60s and Kweskin pursued a solo career in music, but also ran a day job / career as a construction contractor in the Los Angeles area.
"I got a day job," he said. "I no longer wanted to play music because I had to, because when I did, it stopped being fun". (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/2230752-181/the-buzz-about-jim-kweskin?ref=related)
He continues to play today in small club and venues in the US …
All the songs are "traditionals" unless noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Sister Kate's Night Out – A medley composed of "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" (A. J. Piron), "Heebie Jeebies" (Boyd Atkins) and "Fifteen Cents" (Frankie Jaxon). "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" was recorded by The Original Memphis Five (1922), The Cotton Pickers (1923) and others. It seems to be adapted from a 1917 Louis Armstrong composition, ‘Take Your Feet Off Katie’s Head’. "Heebie Jeebies" was recorded by Louis Armstrong (1926) , "15 Cents" was recorded by Frankie Jaxon (1933). The songs are seamless. A great way to start the album
- Hannah – Kweskin says he learnt the song from an old 78 rpm record by Chris Bouchillion (1926). A blues with great harmonica by Mel Lyman.
- Bye and Bye – is an old Baptist gospel tune, written in 1906 by Charles Albert Tindley. There were gospel versions by the Nazarene Church Choir (1928) , The Golden Gate Quartet (1941), The Blind Boys of Alabama (1950), The Soul Stirrers (1950) and many others. Country versions include Frank & James McCravy (1927) ,The Kentucky Mountain Choristers (1929) and others. Louis Armstrong also recorded it in 1939. Kweskin is in fine voice though quite 60s. A joy. Bound to make you feel good.
- The Cuckoo – is a traditional English ballad by Margaret Casson (published 1790). Recorded by Kelly Harrell (1926) Clarence Ashley (1929) and others. It was picked up by the folk boom and recorded by The New Lost City Ramblers (1962), The Holy Modal Rounders (1964) and many other folk performers. Quite solemn. I can see why this appealed to certain parts of the folk boom.
- I Ain't Never Been Satisfied – (with Marilyn Kweskin, lead vocal) is and "original" with new words and music by Jim and Marilyn Kweskin, and is based on children's ring games. Simple and effective
- Eight More Miles to Louisville – is a "new" song recorded by Grandpa Jones in 1957. A beautifully upbeat way to finish the side.
- I Got Mine – Kweskin refers a version recorded by Pink Anderson in 1950 but the song is based on an old vaudeville from 1902 (by John Queen & Charlie Cartwell), called ‘I Got Mine (The Coon Song)’ which was recorded by Arthur Collins & Joe Natus. Country versions were recorded by Fiddlin’ John Carson (1924), Gid Tanner & his Skillet Lickers (1926) and others. African-American versions were recorded by Big Boy George Owens (1926 as ‘The Coon Crap Game’], Frank Stokes (1928), Robert (Barbecue Bob) & Charlie Hicks (1930 as ’Darktown Gamblin – Part 1 (The Crap Game)). Recorded live and lively with Kweskin quite growly
- Buffalo Skinners – is traditional and genuine cowboy song from the 1800s, published by John Lomax in the 1910 collection Cowboy Songs, recorded for the Library of Congress in 1935 by Pete Harris. Woody Guthrie (a favourite of Kweskin) recorded it at least a couple times, with altered words; once with Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry (1944) and solo (1945). It, also, was picked dup by the folk boom and recorded by Jack Elliott & Derroll Adams (1957) Pete Seeger (1956), Cisco Houston (1962), Eric Von Schmidt (1963) and others. The second of the live songs. A haunting and beautiful song.
- Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor – is based on W.C. Handy's "Atlanta Blues" which in turn comes from an old folksong. It was recorded by Ethel Waters (1926), Jelly Roll Morton (1938), Sidney Bechet (1940), Jimmy Yancey (1944), Guthrie [1940s, released 1964), Cisco Houston (1958), The Weavers (1959), The Journeymen (1961), and Mississippi John Hurt (1966). A hoot … great lyrics.
- Guabi Guabi – (with Fritz Richmond, 2nd voice) is a Zulu folksong from the Nde-Ele tribe. It was recorded by George Sibanda, from Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1952 but made famous by Jack Elliott in 1964. Cute and quite catchy.
- My Creole Belle – Kweskin say he learned this song from Mississippi John Hurt who recorded it in 1963. It is based on the 1902 song ‘Creole Belles’, written by George Sidney and J. Bodewald Lampe, recorded by Sousa’s Band and others. More great harmonica work in this New Orleans old time blues.
- Relax Your Mind – Kweskin says he learned the song from Leadbelly who recorded it in1948. Very Leadbelly … there is a sense of doom over everything. I love the sentiment though.
Wonderful … takes me back to, errr, to the first time I found old-timey and ragtime records in op shops in the 80s. I'm keeping it.
Three Songs – A Look at the Ragtime Era (Sister Kate's Night Out) …
Bye and Bye
I Ain't Never Been Satisfied
Eight More Miles to Louisville
I Got Mine
Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor
My Creole Belle
Relax Your Mind
- Liner notes: http://www.trussel.com/lyman/relax.htm