Jim Kweskin was one of the avatars of the 1960's folk movement's "jug band" scene, reviving blues and blue-novelty tunes from the 1920s and '30s while making new music that echoed the antique-y vibe of those old songs. Also in the Boston-based Jim Kweskin Jug Band were guitarist Geoff Muldaur, bassist/jug player Fritz Richmond and singer Maria Muldaur, who went on to crack the Pop Top 10 as a solo artist in the '70s. Oddly, the group's harmonica player, Mel Lyman, became a controversial figure as the leader of a drug-fueled religious cult, the Mel Lyman Family, of which Kweskin was a longtime member. The Jug Band broke up in the late 1960s, with all the members pursuing various musical careers. Here's a quick look at the Jug Band, and at Kweskin's solo stuff...
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "Greatest Hits" (Vanguard, 1969)
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "Acoustic Swing & Jug" (Reprise, 1998)
Jim Kweskin "Vanguard Visionaries" (Vanguard, 2007)
Jim Kweskin "Garden Of Joy/Jim Kweskin's America" (Collectables, 2005)
A slightly odd reissue, pairing two distinct albums, the 1967 Garden Of Joy, by the Jug Band, and Kweskin's quirky 1971 solo album, which was produced by Mel Lyman.
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "Unblushing Brassiness" (Vanguard, 1963)
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "Jug Band Music" (Vanguard, 1965)
Jim Kweskin "Relax Your Mind" (Vanguard, 1966)
A stripped-down trio of Kweskin, bassist Fritz Richmond and Mel Lyman work through a nice set of songs, culminating in the title track, "Relax Your Mind," which became one of Kweskin's best-known recordings. A swell mix of blues, folk and jazz oldies, with highlights including a cover of Grandpa Jones' "Eight More Miles To Louisville," "Hannah," and an attempt at an African Zulu folk song, "Guabi Guabi," played as a melodic Delta blues tune. There are also lively versions of "I Got Mine" and "Buffalo Skinners," recorded in concert at Club 47, in Cambridge, with a little sense of how the crowds responded to the Jug Band in its heyday. Future cultist Mel Lyman wrote the liner notes, and although they are basically the same old self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness as on so many other albums of the era, a slight hint of Lyman's megalomania comes through at the end, when he declaims that "...Jim has cautioned me that I must practice humility when dealing with the public." Innocent-sounding enough in '65, but in hindsight indicative of weirdness to come. But, whatever. Regardless of Lyman's inherent egomania, this is a nice record, definitely worth a whirl.
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "See Reverse Side For Title" (Vanguard, 1967)
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "Garden Of Joy" (Vanguard, 1967)
Jim Kweskin & The Neo-Passe Jazz Band "Jump For Joy" (Vanguard, 1967)
(Produced by Samuel Charters)
Kwesikin goes all-out for an old-time jazz standards/Dixieland trad sound, covering blues, jazz and Tin Pan Alley tunes such as "Stagerlee," "Melancholy Baby," "Kicking The Gong Around," "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "He's In The Jailhouse Now," Jimmy McHugh's "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." The overall vibe is upbeat and delightfully celebratory of these classic old tunes, and the musicianship is top-flight, particularly the banjo and clarinets. Kweskin goes a little overboard on his vocals, frequently sounding too manic as he tries to channel Cab Calloway, but he manages to reign it in on some of the sweeter songs... Highlights include less well-known numbers such as "You're Not The Only Oyster In The Stew" and "That's My Weakness Now," as well as an updated version of "Moving Day," a deceptively cheery Depression-era eviction song that still packs a punch today. If you enjoy trad-jazz revivalists such as the Cheap Suit Serenaders, et. al., you'll definitely want to give this disc a spin.
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band "What Ever Happened To Those Good Old Days At Club Forty Seven In Cambridge Massachussetts With Jim Kweskin And His Friends?" (Vanguard, 1968)
Jim Kweskin "Jim Kweskin's America" (Reprise, 1971)
(Produced by Richard D. Herbruck - aka Mel Lyman)
Jim Kweskin "Jim Kweskin Lives Again" (Mountain Railroad, 1978) (LP)
Jim Kweskin "Side By Side" (Mountain Railroad, 1979)
Jim Kweskin "Swing On A Star With Jim Kweskin And The Kids" (Mountain Railroad, 1980) (LP)
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band with Sippie Wallace & Otis Spann "Jug Band Blues" (Mountain Railroad, 1987)
Jim Kweskin Band & Samoa Wilson "Now And Again" (Blix Street, 2003)
Jim Kweskin Band & Samoa Wilson "Live The Life" (Blix Street, 2004)
Jim Kweskin "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" (Blix Street, 2009)
Jim Kweskin/Various Artists "Jug Band Extravaganza" (2010)
The Lyman Family with Lisa Kindred "American Avatar" (Reprise, 1969)
Mel Lyman Family "Birth" (Transparency, 2002)
Originally recorded in 1970, these sesions include vocals from Maria Muldaur, as well as Lisa Kindred...
Hick Music Index