If you’re into jug bands – and, yes, we will readily admit to that – there was no better place to be on the planet than The Egg in Albany on Thursday night.
Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur – two founding members of the grand old Jim Kweskin Jug Band of the ’60s – together again on the same stage. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Or does it?
On Thursday night, there was a third chair on the stage, and it was occupied by John Sebastian, who knows a thing or two about jug band music as well. The Lovin’ Spoonful leader wasn’t officially on the bill, but he played the whole show, adding his electric guitar, six-string banjo and, of course, harmonica to the sweet, funky sounds.
Naturally, there were a number of tunes from the Jim Kweskin Jug Band songbook, including the opening “Blues in the Bottle,” the jaunty “Mornin’ Blues” and a shimmering rendition of “Fishing Blues” (which the Spoonful also recorded).
But there were plenty of other great songs, too, and Kweskin dutifully reported the source material for nearly all of them – Dock Boggs’ “Mistreated Mama,” Furry Lewis’ “Turn Your Money Green,” Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon’s “Fan It” and the beautiful ballad by Milton Brown & His Musical Brownies, “My Mary.”
Throughout the evening Kweskin and Muldaur alternated lead vocal chores, and they were both in excellent voice. Muldaur’s haunting rendition of Vera Hall’s “Wild Ox Moan” took top honors as best vocal performance of the evening, as he slid into an eerie falsetto. Kweskin hit his highwater mark crooning his way through the Rodgers & Hart standard, “You Took Advantage of Me,” one of the few excursions that veered away from roots ‘n’ blues-based material.
Seated in the middle, Kweskin stuck to guitar, although he grabbed a banjo for the second-set opener and audience sing-along “Down On Penny’s Farm.” Muldaur primarily switched between guitar and banjo, although he offered some pennywhistle on “Down On Penny’s Farm” and served up some kalimba on the Zulu children’s song, “Guabi Guabi.”
Sebastian played the role of back-up musician, primarily playing basslines on his electric guitar and squeezing in only a few harmonica solos all night long, although his solo on the show-closing “Papa’s On the Housetop” was worth the wait. He didn’t sing any lead vocals, although he did join in on the choruses of “Fishing Blues” and “Boll Weevil Blues.”
The only real bit of disappointment was that Thursday’s performance was the exact same show that Kweskin and Muldaur had played just six months earlier at the 50th anniversary celebration of Caffe Lena. On the other hand, that show back in May was such a fantastic evening of roots music (read our review here) that we didn’t mind the encore performance one bit.
Michael Eck’s review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Their encore of ‘Just a Little While to Stay Here’ just soared. It was a borrowed New Orleans funeral song they introduced with Kweskin describing New Orleans jazz funerals, until Muldaur interrupted him with a detour into his own account of getting left behind by the funeral of Fats Domino’s guitar player by ducking into a bar for a few beers. This front-porch-casual show demonstrated that vintage musical minds and still-supple hands and voices match up well with vintage tunes, especially when old pals come together to celebrate them. They seemed ready to keep doing this forever, and they should.”
JIM KWESKIN, GEOFF MULDAUR & JOHN SEBASTIAN SET LIST
Blues in the Bottle
He’s a Jelly Roll Baker
Sweet to Mama
You Took Advantage of Me
Turn Your Money Green
Down on Penny’s Farm
Wild Ox Moan (Geoff & John only)
Frankie and Albert
Boll Weevil Blues
Papa’s On the Housetop
Just a Little While to Stay Here