Blue Highway cuts with Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma KaukonenJorma Kaukonen may never be a fixture on the bluegrass circuit, but the eclectic guitarist has been involved in a variety of roots music endeavors since his early days with The Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco’s heady 1960s music scene. His first post-Airplane outing, Hot Tuna, with fellow Airplane alum Jack Casady, has endured since 1970, and has always had an acoustic blues-based focus.

Hot Tuna now includes noted mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff, whose background includes decades of work in bluegrass and traditional music. Kaukonen’s 2002 release, Blue Country Heart, received a Grammy nomination and is self-described as a tribute to American roots music. He makes his home on the fringes of the Appalachian mountains in southeastern Ohio, where he operates Fur Peace Ranch, hosting guitar camps and running a concert venue.

Kaukonen recently signed with Red House Records, and the first project for the new label, Stars In My Crown, was recorded this past October in Nashville. It was produced by Byron House, and recorded at 17 Grand Studios with Gary Paczosa engineering, and a host of familiar acoustic and bluegrass guest artists, including Sam Bush and Blue Highway.

Tim Stafford recalls the experience, and working with Jorma, fondly.

“We came in at the end of the session, which had been going on for several days with other musicians. I recorded three or four tunes with Jorma, Sally Van Meter, Barry Mitterhoff and Byron the first day, mostly country blues-based numbers. Jorma is a big fan of Rev. Gary Davis, and we did a couple of his tunes as I recall, and one of Byron’s originals, a spooky gospel song.

Jorma said he liked the sound of the flatpicked guitar with his fingerstyle. What a great guy! We met him through playing a show at his Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, OH earlier this year and he took a liking to the band. Jason, Shawn and Rob came in the next day (Wayne decided not to come since he wouldn’t be playing bass and we didn’t need harmony vocals) and we recorded Johnny Cash’s apocalyptic ‘The Man Comes Around’ with Byron and Jorma. Very cool! Everyone loved the way that one turned out.

You would never know from Jorma’s demeanor that he’s one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ‚Äì he’s incredibly down-to-earth and nice. And very funny!

It was a great experience all the way around and I was thrilled to be involved.”

Look for the new CD to be released on March 13, 2007. Red House plans to put audio samples online as the street date nears.

Share this:

About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.