Volume #12, Issue #1
Robert Hunter and Jorma Kaukonen
City of blues, home of the Cubs, Wrigley Field, Chicago. The Cubby Bear, a seedy-looking “jock” bar, across the street from the entrance to Wrigley Field, was the unlikely location for an exciting co-billing of performers. Jorma Kaukonen and Robert Hunter had only appeared together once before and it makes one wonder how such a complementary union hasn’t taken place often. Recently, Jorma contributed some of his fine guitar work to a portion of Amagamalin St., Hunter’s latest record.
Over the course of two evenings (12/8 &9), little was left to be desired. Both Hunter and Jorma delivered the very best of their vast repertoires.
The audience consisted of a curious blend of music enthusiasts. There were Deadheads, of course. But there, it branched off. There were the Hunter heads and the Jorma heads and, surprisingly, most people had their preferences between the two artists. But by the end of any show, this attitude softened considerably.
Hunter opened the shows (by choice) and delivered four exciting sets which included “Money Tree Blues”, “Promontory Rider”, “Jack Straw”, “Candyman” and a rousing rendition of “Rock Columbia, Roll”, the title cut of an upcoming album. “Gypsy Parlor Light”, “Roseanne”, “Amagamalin St.” and “Better Bad Luck”, all from the Amagamalin St. album, were superbly done. Garcia favorites (“Alabama Getaway”, Run for the Roses”, “Wharf Rat” and “It Must Have Been the Roses”) and Hunter favorites (“Tiger Rose”, “Rum Runners”, “Slack String Quartet”, “Touch of Darkness”, “Day Job”, “We Will Survive” and the a capella “Boys in the Barroom”) all performed with the up-beat confidence that Hunter seems to have recently found through frequent playing experience. The well-timed accompaniment of the harp to his guitar work provided a solid background to his powerful baritone vocals.
On with the show.
Jorma can’t be rushed. Repeat patrons (and most are) of his shows can attest to his laid back attitude when it comes to his eventually taking the stage. But getting him off that stage can be the same problem, so it’s best to kick back and let things happen. Once Jorma finds his way to the microphone, it all seems worth the trip. The most impressive part of these shows was the excellent sound system, which delivered every range that Hunter and Jorma could deliver could deliver, with impeccable clarity. The system carried its acoustic message well over the exuberant chatter of the sold-out audience.
From Jorma’s own “Embryonic Journey” (the first song he ever wrote) to those standard crowd-pleasers “Candyman”, “Hesitation Blues”, “I Know You, Rider”, “I Am the Light”, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”, those signature strummings that have endeared Jorma to so many fans were sparklingly alive. “Too Hot to Handle” was almost too hot! This is the tentative title track of his upcoming acoustic album. Other songs that Jorma delivered included “Walkin’ Blues”, “Trial By Fire”, “Whinin’ Boy”, “Ice Age” and “I’ll Be Alright”. Jorma has been extremely busy lately, shuffling around the country. A hectic tour schedule has kept our dear boy from getting much sleep in recent months (years?), but his performances never hinted at the fact that the man is exhausted. Maybe he doesn’t know it yet.
But alas, all good things must come to an end (haven’t I heard that somewhere?). But don’t despair! All shows were amply recorded! Tape decks were spinning all over the place, including a complete video set-up. These four shows are moments for all tapers to look for. Standards of excellence and HIGHLY recommended!!!