Jim Kweskin ‘Unjugged’ (Hornbeam) 4/5

An original stalwart of the folk scene in the 1960’s, Jim Kweskin has now settled in California and this is his debut album on the excellent indie label Hornbeam out of London. Kweskin headed one of the most influential of jug bands and several musicians in that band have gone on to achieve prominence, notably Geoff and Maria Muldaur. For this new recording, Jim Kweskin has enlisted the support of some of the UK’s and North America’s finest folk musicians, with Ben Paley on fiddle, Canadian Bonnie Dobson, and Sean Read on vocals. The repertoire is wide-ranging and takes on the Great American songbook which, here, is given a lovely country swing feel on, ‘Is is true what they say about Dixie?’. At the heart of this recording is the warm nature of the duetting between Kweskin on banjo and Paley on fiddle and this drives the music along. This writer immediately warmed to the inter-weaving of musical influences with blues, jug music, jazz and rhythm and blues all featuring at some point. Covers of folk greats includes some lovely harmony vocals on Donovan’s ‘Colours’, and a reading of Pete Seeger’s ‘Living in the country’. This is precisely the kind of relaxed pace album that is the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of the hectic, and at times chaotic, build up to the festive season.

Tim Stenhouse