Record Review - 3 June 26 2002

Before he joined Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen was a San Francisco folkie fingerpicking songs by blues pioneers. Kaukonen’s generosity with his muse continues with the release of Blue Country Heart, which showcases the natural storytelling element found in American songs.

Focusing on songs from the ’20s and ’30s by country music pioneers, Blue Country Heart is an aural treat, with Kaukonen’s acoustic guitar doing its part to tell the tales. All the popular Depression-era themes — gambling, prohibition, trains, prison, romance — are beautifully represented, the spotlight alternately shining on the vocals, the stories and the playing.

Joining Kaukonen are four bluegrass heavyweights: mandolinist Sam Bush, dobro player Jerry Douglas, banjo fusionist Bela Fleck and bassist Byron House. The ensemble was recorded live, and there were no vocal overdubs, which allows for wonderful musical juxtapositions like those in “Bread Line Blues,” where Kaukonen’s razor-sharp leads move against Douglas’ mercurial dobro lines. A great addition to the lexicon of American folk/blues/country music.??