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By David Werther.

Jorma Kaukonen, River of Time (Red House Records, 2009)

           Widely known for some of the most memorable electric guitar licks in the 60s, when he and Jack Casady, a pal from junior high days, played in The Jefferson Airplane, the wellsprings of Jorma Kaukonen’s music are found in the finger picking playing of folks like the Rev. Gary Davis (1896–1972) and Mississippi John Hurt (1893–1966). On River of Time, an entirely acoustic recording, Kaukonen covers Davis’ “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere” and Hurt’s “Preachin’ on the Old Camp Ground.”

           The metaphor, river of time, came to Jorma Kaukonen when his grandmother spoke to him in a dream. What makes the passing of time so poignant are the lost relationships, lost opportunities and deep regrets. What makes it bearable is a sense that there is a continuity between the generations and a possibility of epiphany. Kaukonen captures both.

           On the CD’s last two songs, Kaukonen juxtaposes the generations. On the title track he looks back to his grandmother, while the final song, “Simpler Than I Thought,” is inspired by his three-year-old adopted daughter, Israel. In the latter, Jorma exudes contentment, gratitude and wonder, and inspires the same. These sentiments in the final cut contrast with the singer’s reflections in the opening track, “Been So Long”: “been so long since
I’ve felt at home in the mirror.”

           Larry Campbell, a musical factotum and one-time Dylan band member, produced The River of Time, and made musical contributions on guitar, pedal steel guitar, dobro, mandolin, and fiddle. His contributions are most evident in the instrumental, “A Walk with Friends,” playing both fiddle and pedal steel guitar. In a CD of strong songs this one stands out. It is at once sad, soothing, and strengthening. Our culture would be richer if this Kaukonen-Mitterhoff-Campbell composition were as widely known as some of Jorma's earlier work.

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