Jorma Kaukonen

REVIEW: Jorma Kaukonen “Live at the Bottom Line – August 8, 2003”


Jorma Kaukonen – Live at the Bottom Line – August 8, 2003

This 2-disc recorded live at the now defunct Bottom Line in NYC (Aug. 8, 2003) is quite a performance of distinction & virtuosity. Jorma Kaukonen (vocals/guitar) — a guitarist who began his career in 1965 with the original Jefferson Airplane (a Piedmont-style fingerpicking guitar & his “Embryonic Journey” was even covered by guitar great Leo Kottke). Later Jorma formed with Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady the acoustic-based Hot Tuna.

Jorma Kaukonen

A highly regarded musician among his peers Jorma’s been attributed with being a progenitor of Bay-area psychedelic music with sprinklings of the blues ethic & through his storied career also injected doses of Americana & roots music into the skin of his performances. Always with sparkling results. I came across the music accidentally when a friend left behind an album of his called Burgers by Hot Tuna. The songs were all like individually wrapped Godiva chocolates.

Jorma has said: “playing those classic songs, not covering those songs…” & that does make a difference. This CD doesn’t have a bad cut on it because Jorma & his cohorts have infused each with their personality. It features original Jorma tunes, melodies by Jimmie Rodgers, the Delmore Brothers, Reverend Gary Davis & some traditional. What’s delightful is how well Jorma’s vocal is captured pristinely on some of these vintage songs & the acoustic playing marries up to the mandolins. Nothing ever comes across as rusty, dusty, corny, or dated.


The 16-cut CD Live at the Bottom Line – August 2003 (Drops June 2–Omnivore) was originally produced by the owners of The Bottom Line: Allan Pepper & Stanley Snadowsky. This Omnivore issue was produced by Gregg Bendian & Cheryl Pawelski.

The late guitar-legend John Fahey would’ve been a good match with Jorma. Is this music in vogue today? I’d say in many areas of the country there are loyalists — where many artists still ply their entertainment trade in the manner Jorma has done for decades, yes. The recording industry is what’s rather flat – disposable music is their forte. That’s the psyche of the recording industry. Like grocery store produce or tinned-Spam over filet mignon — almost every time.

Highlights – “Blue Railroad Train,” “Re-Enlistment Blues,” “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” “Do Not Go Gentle,” “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “Red River Blues,” “Living In the Moment,” the exceptional “Good Shepard,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “Just Because,” & “Hesitation Blues.”

Handsome 6-panel die-cut CD package with exceptional liner notes by Gregg Bendian. This is an intimate live set with Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin/octave mandolin/tenor guitar/tenor banjo) & Cindy Cashdollar (steel guitar).

Color image courtesy of Barry Berenson. CD #1 @ 52-minutes & CD #2 @ 42-minutes. CD cover by Scotty Hall & available at

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