Jorma Kaukonen

Stars in My Crown

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It's interesting the way things go in circles. In the early '60s, Jorma Kaukonen (or Jerry, as he was then) played blues guitar in the coffeehouses of the South Bay Area, sometimes with Janis Joplin. Now, after stints with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, he's back to his first love, mixing blues, gospel, and country, backed by some excellent musicians. It's a blissful self-indulgence, laid-back but still quite heartfelt, although it has to be said that not all his material meets the standards ("Heart Temporary" is a decent opener, but not in the same class as "No Demon" or Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around"), although "A Life Well Lived" is a lovely piece of work. There are some excellent covers, a couple from the Rev. Gary Davis, and a delicious version of "By the Rivers of Babylon." As you'd expect, after four and a half decades, Kaukonen can pick a mean guitar, but he's content to let others take the lead role, especially Barry Mitterhoff's mandolin work. All in all, it makes for a great package, one to be savored over and over for its gentle, soulful heart.

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