Jim Kweskin

Now and Again

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Big Grammy wins in recent years for tradition-minded recordings like O Brother Where Art Thou? and Norah Jones' Come Away with Me show that the music industry and its fans will embrace traditional styles if done well. Folkster Jim Kweskin was more known in his '60s heyday as a club performer and touring support act (the Doors, Janis Joplin, Peter, Paul and Mary), but this recording -- coming three decades plus after the Jim Kweskin Jug Band split -- could find sweet spot in our culture as we yearn for a simpler style from a simpler time. The rhythm guitarist has a pleasant and engaging voice, but the real stars here are the crisp and sparse arrangements of a wide variety of classics, a band featuring such accouterments as fiddle and mandolin, and the secret weapon of traditional blues and country-styled vocalist Samoa Wilson. Kweskin handles vocals on a few songs (most notably "Sweet Sue," on which he also plays banjo, but the best tracks are ones like the classic blues gem "Why Don't You Do Right," which features Wilson's straightforward confrontations backed by the punctuation of Kweskin and Titus Vollmer's guitars. Material ranges from Nina Simone's "Sugar in My Bowl" to the Depression era classic "Brother Can You Spare a Dime." While this is an irresistible group effort all the way through, the track that is hardest to not sing along with is the four-part harmony gospel tune from the Leadbelly catalog, "Linin' Track," with Geordie Gude's magical harmonica solo bridging the a cappella and instrumentally enhanced parts.

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