Review by Bill Whiting
Jorma Kaukonen’s April 16 performance at Miami University’s Parrish Auditorium offered a glimpse into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s distinguished past and busy, groundbreaking future. Appearing with longtime partner, mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff, Kaukonen sat down for a two hour show filled with old classics, new reworkings on gospel and blues favorites, and material culled from Hot Tuna’s recent CD, Steady As She Goes. The Tuna disc returns Kaukonen to the top of the charts, as he described with a smile that it outsold Lady Gaga on it’s first day of release on Amazon’s website. But, it’s the exquisite song craft from Steady As She Goes that continues to amaze, and his live rendering of “Second Chances” was both endearing and bittersweet. Mitterhoff was a jack of all trades at the Parrish show, switching string instruments at a moment’s notice, and offering up soulful backing vocals while energizing the Papa Charlie McCoy instrumental, “Vicksburg Stomp.” Kaukonen journeyed through time to his 2002 Blue Country Heart triumph on the depression era standard, “Bread Line Blues.” A visceral fingerpicking blues guitarist, Jorma displayed a wealth of range on acoustic, and an admiration for the work of the Reverend Gary Davis as evidenced on his interpretation of Davis’ “Mama Let Me Lay It On You.” However, the evening glided along on the wonderful sails of Kaukonen’s originals, of which the wistful “Things That Might Have Been” was a highlight. Enthusiasts of the early Jefferson Airplane/ Hot Tuna time period did not leave disappointed either- Mitterhoff and Kaukonen seemed to relish riffing off of one another on the traditional “Hesitation Blues” and “Uncle Sam Blues.” By the time Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff encored with the Hot Tuna fm radio staple, “Keep On Truckin’,” the Parrish Auditorium audience had been treated to one of the best acoustic concerts in the tri state area in a long, long time. Acoustic Hot Tuna featuring Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Barry Mitterhoff plays the 20th Century Theater in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 9, 2011.