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Jorma Kaukonen kicks back (sort of) and comes full circle with "Ain't In No Hurry"

By Brian Baker, February 2015

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"I've played 'Nobody Knows You' for half a century with a lot of different people - Janis Joplin, Steve Mann, done it solo - but I've never officially recorded it," says Kaukonen. "And 'Brother Can You Spare a Dime' is a song I've loved forever, and it's in that spirit of 'Nobody Knows You', and it seemed to fit with the economic things that are going on today. I don't think I intellectualized it like that, but I think that's what attracted me to it."

Kaukonen also jumped at the opportunity to put music to some unpublished Woody Guthrie lyrics for "Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me" as well as turning out covers of the Carter Family obscurity "Sweet Fern," longtime collaborator Michael Falzarano's "Where There's Two There's Trouble" and gospel giant Thomas Dorsey's "The Terrible Operation." But perhaps the best cover is when Kaukonen covers himself, revisiting the electric Hot Tuna classic "Bar Room Crystal Ball" from the 1975 album "Yellow Fever."

"We started to play it again because I always liked the lyrics, and underneath the scads of overdubbed guitars on the Tuna version - and as I always say at this point in an interview, in my defense, it was the '70s - the basic track was me playing the acoustic guitar," says Kaukonen. "It had evolved in a countryesque way with Larry Campbell playing pedal steel and that was the frosting on the cake. And singing with (Campbell's wife) Teresa...gosh, if she and Larry weren't so busy, I wouldn't go anywhere without them."

The essential element to "Bar Room Crystal Ball" is Casady's bass presence, which became immediately apparent to Kaukonen as the track developed in the Fur Peace Ranch's 32-track studio.

"I did the acoustic guitar part and we started messing around with stuff and put the vocals on it, and Larry and I both realized there was only one person that can play bass on this song and that is Jack, of course," says Kaukonen. "So I call him up and tell him I'm working on a solo Jorma album, and I'm doing this song, and I want him to play bass. Jack goes, 'I think that's crossing boundaries with Hot Tuna.' And I said, 'Jack, I'm going to say one thing to you. I played on your album.' And he said, 'Okay, I'll do it.'"

"It just evolved. I think my subconscious holds my hand a lot," says Kaukonen. "We didn't have to select stuff. I didn't have any outtakes left over. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when the vacuum is filled, I'm done. So it came together in a synchronous way. When I did the sequencing for the songs, I put it together the way I'd do it if I were playing a set. It came together by a higher power holding my hand or maybe I just got lucky, but I can see a unity in the material, and it just happened that way."

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