Jug band duo Muldaur, Kweskin return to their roots

Tue Dec 7, 2010 6:04pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Miller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Geoff Muldaur started performing again with his old jug band colleague Jim Kweskin after a hiatus of some 35 years, he wanted to make sure the music still sounded fresh.

"We didn't want to sound like geezers just playing the old songs," Muldaur, 67, told Reuters after a recent gig in New York.

The pair enjoyed several years of popularity in the 1960s as mainstays of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, a Boston-based group that introduced a new generation of folkies to a distinctive Prohibition-era sound that had faded into obscurity.

The original jug bands in the American South, such as Cannon's Jug Stompers, the Memphis Jug Band and the Dixieland Jug Blowers, flourished in the 1920s and featured acoustic instruments anchored by the rhythmic sound made by blowing sharp puffs of air across the mouth of an empty stoneware jug.

Four decades later, The Kweskin band featured the jug playing of Fritz Richmond, considered a virtuoso on both the jug and the washtub bass. A memorial concert after Richmond's death in 2005 at age 66 inspired Kweskin and Muldaur to resume playing together again.

"Geoff and I started doing a few gigs," Kweskin said. "I would join him for a few songs, and then he would join me for a few songs."

At their New York concert, Kweskin and Muldaur traded off on guitar, banjo and vocals. An unadvertised guest accompanied them on harmonica, baritone guitar and six-string banjo -- John Sebastian, the founder of the 1960s group the Lovin' Spoonful.

In a little over an hour, the trio ran through more than a dozen songs derived from the repertoires of blues legends Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis and Henry Thomas, as well as Western Swing pioneer Milton Brown and a roots musician named Vera Ward Hall, known as "Alabama's singing washerwoman."   Continued...