Hot Tuna

Live at Sweetwater / Live in Japan
Hot Tuna

Jorma Kaukonen, who started as an acoustic folk-blues guitarist, returned to that style in 1969 when he and bassist Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna. Recordings from their early gigs at Bay Area clubs made up their 1970 debut LP. While the lineup has varied over the past half-century, the duo’s roots focus remains a constant.

This three-disc, 47-track collection reissues three ’90s albums – two live sets from Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, and another from Japan. Other musicians joined Kaukonen, Casady, and longtime second guitarist Michael Falzarano as they delved into their characteristically rich blend of blues, gospel, jazz folk, country and rockabilly. Bob Weir sat in on the first Sweetwater performance, Happy Traum the second.

Kaukonen’s easy-going vocals and solid fingerpicking remain the focus, as he delivers the longtime Tuna favorite “Hesitation Blues,” two rousing versions of “San Francisco Bay Blues” and the ancient black folk tune, “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” He even steps back to the Airplane era to reprise his original instrumental “Embryonic Journey.” Kaukonen’s acoustic skills and Casady’s solid bass reflect well on a band that’s endured decades longer than the Airplane.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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