John Sebastian

Chasing Gus' Ghost - John Sebastian and the J BandThough my taste in music generally runs to the noisy, back in the 60’s I always liked the Lovin’ Spoonful and jug band music as well. After a bunch of decades, I listened to the Spoonful again, and found their optimistic, well-crafted songs were still gems.

Fronted by John Sebastian, they were part of the jug band tradition that had a big run in the 20’s. Another 60’s jug band definitely worth listening too is the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (with some vocals by a young Maria Muldaur.) They were on the frenzied side, maybe a bit wacky, and then you realized what superb musicians they were. They made a nice counterpoint to the more laid back and hugely more commercially succesful Lovin’ Spoonful.

John Sebastian returned to jug band music in 1995, releasing two CDs as John Sebastian and the J Band, and I discovered them a few weeks ago. The music is a compelling mix of jug band, blues, old time country, and more. It’s music the way he and the band want it to be, without worrying about sales. Sebastian summed it up in a NY Times interview, “The industry has been in a corporate noose for so long, it doesn’t even have a leg jiggle left. There’s no one saying ‘Wait, we want to make art.'”

Geoff Muldaur and Friz Richmond were founding members of the Kweskin Jug Band and also played on Chasing Gus’ Ghost, the second CD from the band. The CD was named after Gus Cannon of Cannon’s Jug Stompers, a legendary jug band from the 20’s. Listening to their Best Of (mastered from old 78’s) you discover they were quite astonishingly good. Amazon lists the CD but doesn’t have it in stock. Dealers there have it used for $99 and up (yikes) but skip that. Instead, order it off Sebastian’s website for $14.95. (The ordering system acted broken when I ordered my copy, however it arrived fine anyway.)

I Want My Roots was their first CD, it’s maybe a bit bluesier. Both have quickly become favorites. Good music is timeless, especially when done by masters of the form doing it because they love it.

[tags]John Sebastian,jug band music[/tags]

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