Album review: "Steady as She Goes"
In 1959, Washington had a teenage rock-and-roll band called the Triumphs. Then, in 1965, two former Triumphs, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, joined a new San Francisco band called the Jefferson Airplane, experimenting with ways to electrify the blues.
The Airplane has come and gone, but Hot Tuna, a spinoff band formed by Kaukonen and Casady in 1969, has never stopped gigging, releasing its first studio album in 21 years — and its best since 1972 — with “Steady as She Goes.”
Hot Tuna — Kaukonen, Casady, mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff and drummer Skoota Warner — is joined by producer Larry Campbell, who clarifies the band’s often cluttered sound, allowing Kaukonen’s sparkling guitar lines and Casady’s surprisingly melodic bass lines to shine through.
Hot Tuna nods to its roots with a version of “Goodbye to the Blues” by Marshall Wilborn of the Johnson Mountain Boys, while Kaukonen and Campbell’s co-written “Angel of Darkness” contemplates sin and mortality with stomping blues-rock.
By contrast, Kaukonen’s “Things That Might Have Been” is a lovely folk ballad about familial trauma during his teen years in D.C. And, fittingly, the band’s take on Mark Markham & the Jesters’ “If This Is Love” is the kind of garage-rock gem that might have been played by the Triumphs.
--Geoffrey Himes, April 29, 2011