Another GREAT time!

We’re getting ready for another guitar camp weekend……the weather and the Ranch are both looking real good…..and we’re close to a sellout on the Jonathan Edwards and Steve Kaufman show for this Saturday night. However, I’m still thinking about what a great time we had during the last camp session and wanted to fill you all in, while it is still on and in my mind. The April 9th weekend brought a lot of familiar faces and old friends of the Fur Peace together. Our big opening weekend at the end of March was just off the charts and I foolishly thought it would be hard to top that one. Well, I’m happy and lucky to be able to say……..it was another great time. This was our Hot Tuna weekend with JK, Jack and Barry all here teaching and also performing on Saturday night. We were also graced by the presence of Marjorie Thompson who was here to teach her class on Country Blues.

There were 32 students here at the Ranch and 20 of those were repeat offenders. Just a clarification on that…..REPEAT OFFENDERS are what we affectionately refer to our repeat students as. Hot Tuna Weekend Class PhotoSO…..two – thirds of the camp is filled with people we already know. Yes, you can do the math…….the other a little over a third, 12 students were all here for their first taste of the Fur Peace and I’ve got to tell you…….they were all such nice people……we made them instant family. It was truly a wonderful mix and a super positive vibe was in the air. Several …..or maybe even more then that……students that were here for this session have been coming to the Ranch since we opened and it really is special to see them again. Several others maybe haven’t been coming that long, but their easy going ways and cool disposition, make it feel like we’ve been friends forever. So….hopefully you get the picture, cause what I’m seeing is the most glorious reflection of humanity that you could hope to see.

Nice weather all weekend and another bombastic job in the kitchen added to the joy. Lots of good eatin’ and with weather this nice, many folks took advantage of the tables we have outside for dining. On Friday and Sunday night the campfire was blazing and some of the ranchers really enjoyed hanging out at the fire circle. Then again….lots of playing in all the different buildings kept some people inside …….where the music was blazing!

The really big show on Saturday night packed the Fur Peace Station to a capacity we didn’t know it was capable of. We had a very full house for this show, which incidentally had been sold-out for over two months. People came from all over for this show and the fine state of New York was well represented!!!! The evening’s festivities kicked off in grand fashion with Collin Rocker performing an opening set, solo acoustic. In many cases this would not be the ideal spot for such an opener……before Electric Hot Tuna……but Collin’s warm, enthusiastic, and talented persona started things off not too bad…….if you don’t mind perfect! Collin I am honored to say has become a good friend…..and boy, oh, boy……I was proud of him. We met through his parents, Jon and Lori, who have been coming to the Ranch for a long time now. One year they brought Collin and the friendship was immediate and it has been growing ever since. Collin has just released his first CD….Milk Box Love and Juke Box Blood and Other American Favorites……you’ve got to love that title……and when you get a chance to hear the CD…..well you’ll love his music too. Now Collin is a young man of 18, but as his Mom mentioned to me one time (see I was listening) he has an old soul….and a fine old soul at that. His music is roots Americana…..totally original material…..and he is a fine songsmith. His lyrics evoke many images, times and thoughts that you can relate to even if they are from a bygone era. The crowd really dug his performance and the response was overwhelming. He played my favorite song off of the new CD….Soggy Dollar Blues……. and it was just outstanding ! BIG UP to C-Rock!

Next……we go to a nice and busy intermission……with the good folks enjoying some Hot Tuna Burgers and our Hot Tuna Melts right off the grill and the Station Break Cafe humming like a food wagon when the break whistle blows.

After the break I came out to announce the second half of the show with ELECTRIC HOT TUNA……I know you people have all been waiting for them……but rather then a stage announcement we have a special surprise guest……the Ranch’s very own Jeroch Carlson….who wears so many hats and does so many righteous tings……has just finished off a poem he had written that would serve as a great Hot Tuna intro. The poem Jeroch had just finished was entitled….”The Only Thing We Need More of Around Here is Some Jamaican Jerk Chicken.” Now I’m not sure what that meant ……but it was a crucial idea! The poem is nothing short of fantastic……as was Jeroch’s reading of the poem. The poem has all kinds of Hot Tuna / Jorma references and we were all swept up in his magical presentation. Deep stuff……..but it was fun and full of culture! I’ve asked Jeroch if it would be OK for me to print the poem in one of my future postings and he says YES and he is sending it my way…..so, soon come on that.

Next…….out comes Hot Tuna…….ELECTRIC……and blazing they were! (Please go to Jorma’s site for a set-list.)Electric Hot Tuna Takes Over! What I’ll tell ya is that it was Hot Tuna at its best…..fire and more fire!!! The whole set was a high-light but my favorite was the moving version of Corners Without Exits! Jorma’s having lots of fun on that electric guitar and when he want to be….he is…the best psychedelic guitar player out there bringing emotion and feeling out of every note that is from another cosmos. Everyone has a different favorite and the good news is that there was plenty to choose from. Several of the comments I heard after the show pointed to the 99 Year Blues and Good Shepherd as other choices for best song of the evening. Now I really do hate to sound cliché, but, it really was ALL GOOD.

Indeed, one of the concert goers said it was the best Hot Tuna show he had heard since the 80′s. Now I was going to tell that guy, that he needed to get out to more Hot Tuna shows……but I let it pass. Everyone left the concert hall that night feeling very satisfied……it had been an incredible evening of music. There was a real bliss in the night air as the people left the Ranch.

Now back to the concert……..Aside from JK sounding bombastic fantastico…….JC was menacingly punching through some great bass lines. I had given Jack a big up earlier in the day……telling him how fantastic he sounds on that NEW Hot Tuna CD release from the New Orleans House. That was Jack in 1969 and he has refined his bass playing over the years…..and that has resulted in Jack’s fine bass playing only getting better. Jack also shared some fun and funny banter with Jorma on stage that really set the relaxed tone for the concert. I’ll tell you…..some of those laughs and shared smiles were contagious …….and it made everyone in the audience feel the joy. Barry Mitterhoff…. ever incredible……with his array of instruments he added fuel to the fire that made the evening’s music exciting and kept the momentum climbing. The addition of Skoota Warner to the Hot Tuna lineup has been another great addition and he fits in the groove …… and actually creates quite a groove as he propels the rhythm to new heights. Aside from being a GREAT drummer, Skoota also possesses a wonderful smile and he sure looks like a man who enjoys his work……..and work it he does. A hotter then hot night at the Fur Peace Station as the home field advantage, the fans and the greatness of the Hot Tuna sounds all came together to create a night to remember!

Sunday morning and everyone is still talking about the show as we start our day with some fine Fur Peace Ranch coffee……the preferred…. Campfire Blend. It’s a nice Spring Sunday and the mood reflects that as we gather in the afternoon for our customary group photo and student performance. The student performance starts off magnificently and just climbs from there. Barry’s class……man, oh, man, he had a great group of students….. takes the stage and they perform a couple numbers as a group. I do believe the songs were…Vicksburg Stomp and Stompin at the Savoy…..as I mentioned, the caliber of Barry’s students was graduate school and their performance made that clear. The entire student performance had a super flow to it and the quality of the talent on that stage……on that afternoon……would have gotten Mr. Sullivan’s nod of approval. I got a chance to jump up and play a number with Stu and John B. Stu was on a repeat visit and we had decided to work out a song together. Stuart’s a very fine bass player and I suggested an old Animals tune….Don’t Bring Me Down…. and even suggested the opening bass riff …doo…doo..da..doo…doo…that Stu dubbed on for a bit before I came in with the opening chord. John B…….what can I say about this cat. It’s always great to see him and his brother here at the Ranch. Aside from them both having impeccable taste for vintage shirts they both have an arsenal of instruments that they like to bring out and say …..hey, check this out…..and their talent is high grade for sure. Well……John had earlier let it be known to me that he had an electric sitar with him….and with that announcement he was asked to join Stu and I. Well…….it was so cool when he came in with that sound……he also took the solo after the second verse and he turned the Fur Peace Station into the Psychedelic Shack….and we didn’t look back……but someone told us JK rose up out of his seat and did a couple twirls as he felt the vibe. The fine production team that brought us Fur Peace Ranch TV on You Tube is working on releasing that performance ……so…..keep an eye out for that one and while you’re at it enjoy all the great video clips that they have been posting. The STUDENT PERFORMANCE came to a fulfilling finale with that same John B. along with Bob D., Pete M., Professor Mitterhoff and the Victoria Barkley of guitar camps, Vanessa, performing Blue or Not, My Sweetie Gives To Me. It was the cream!!!

We all enjoyed another great feast that night as we dined on Homemade Pesto-Ricotta Ravioli, Garlic Bread, Organic Salad Greens and Brocollini……which they tell me is baby broccoli…..topped off with a Strawberry Napoleon. It was out of sight! Later that evening we were all treated to a wonderful concert……just for us…..by the very talented Mrs. Thompson. Marjorie treated us to a great set of her music and her performance was dynamic! The cheers from the ever appreciative student population brought MJ back for an encore….Poster Child for the Blues! The night was complete. We finished things off on Monday and as is always the case, broke camp at noon. Lots of smiles and good cheer as we bid a farewell to another great weekend !!! We are so blessed by the good folks that come through our gates……….the cup is full and we give thanks.

What I’m Listening To

One of my friends, who is also a Fur Peace Ranch regular, and also an avid reader of Checkin’ the Levels, left me a comment asking me what I was listening to and if I would post it next time I blogged. Well …..I blogged about the NEW HOT TUNA and got so wrapped up in the sounds…..I forgot to include my full report on my recent listening pleasures. So……here it is. Well, first off……I have been listening to that NEW Hot Tuna quite a bit in this last week. I put it in heavy rotation initially so I could check it out and write a review…..but what happened was……I loved the CD so much, I just left it in the player and listened to it over and over again. That is a very good sign……and it makes me flash back to the golden days of vinyl, when I would get a new record and play it over and over until the grooves smoked.

Anyhey……I have been listening to alot of African music as of late. Aside from my long-time love of Reggae music……at one time I was really fired up on the Afro-Beat sounds of Fela Kuti and the Ju Ju music of King Sunnny Ade. But……I hadn’t listened to this style of music in some time. One of my friends had laid a nice compilation CD of Modern African music on me and it started the fire burning again. In the last couple of weeks I have bought about six new Afro- Sounds CDs…..two of these are great compilations of African music from back in the prime time of the 1970′s. These are imports on the Sound Way label. Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-6 is one of these …..and the other one is Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Ghanaian Blues 1968 – 81. These two collections are quite fantastic. The music is blazin and the compilation puts together alot of hard to find artists and songs onto CD. Extensive and really informative liner notes accompany these two CD sets in a booklet format. Someone has really done a lot of work in assembling these two collections and I’m impressed and grateful.

Another Afro-Beat artist has just released a new CD and I’m playing this one over and over too. The artist I refer to is Tony Allen and his new CD is titled, “Secret Agent“. Tony was Fela Kuti’s drummer for many years and even Fela is on record as saying without Tony there would be no Afro-Beat. These two, Fela and Tony, were the architects of the Afro-Beat-Sound. This one is a real winner and aside from the infectious grooves……there is a heavy horn section presence, that I really dig.

Also…….I have all the Bunny Wailer music on vinyl…..Jamaican releases for many…..but only the great Blackheart Man on CD. I was getting a hankering for wanting to hear Bunny’s second release….Protest….and when I went to look for the CD, well, dag-nab-it……I found out it was out of print. But in quicker then soon come time, I was able to locate this out of print CD through the second hand market. Now with it in my possession……I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly…….and loving it. Another NEW Reggae collection, just released, is also getting a lot of ear time…this being….Jammy’s From The Roots 1977 – 1985. Jammy’s refers to the GREAT Lloyd ‘Prince Jammy’ James who was a great record producer in the days of roots and culture. Some of the artists on this CD you will have heard of…some I have not heard of……but all the tracks are great! Appropriately …..all the tracks were recorded at the top spots for Reggae Roots in Jamaica……King Tubby’s, Harry J’s, Channel One and Jammy’s. All the great Jamaican studio musicians are present laying down some heavy support rhythms. Real nice.

I’ve also been listening to some “commercial” sounds as well. Getting into the NEW Jimi Hendrix, “Valley of Neptune” and the latest Massive Attack, “Heligoland”. So…..there you have it. Thanks Rob for asking…..you might have started something here…….Look for more “What I’m Listening To” blogs in the future. Some readers might wonder…..”When does he find time to listen to all that music?”…..so I’ll tell ya…..I never tire of the sounds of music, so I’m listening to music while the morning coffee is brewing ……the CD player in the truck plays constantly……I get to listen to music
in my very hip office cabin……and I’m playing the boombox (Yes, I still use one) when I’m out workin’ in a yard. Music makes a great soundtrack for living…………….Live UP and Listen UP…….plenty of good sounds in Jah universe.

New Old Hot Tuna

Hey keep your eyes and ears open…..there’s a new Hot Tuna CD about to be released! It’s a new… never -before- released LIVE CD from way back in the day……so, what we have here is a NEW CD of vintage Hot Tuna. HOT TUNA LIVE AT NEW ORLEANS HOUSE BERKELEY, CA 09/69…..will be released on Collector’s Choice on April 20th. We have received an early shipment of this CD and you can purchase it at the Company Store.

Hot Tuna - Live at the New Orleans House September 1969

Hot Tuna - Live at the New Orleans House September 1969

As all long time HT (Hot Tuna) fans will know……the first self-titled HT record was recorded at this same venue at about the same time. Apparently the band had a multi-night engagement at Berkeley’s New Orleans House in September of 1969 and while all the songs on the HT debut album came from this run of shows…….ALL of the songs on this new CD are unreleased performances. Six of the songs on this CD are titles that were on the 1st album, however, even these are different performances then the ones that showed up on the original release. At this time HT was still a side project for Jefferson Airplaners……Jack and Jorma.

This is a great opportunity for Tuna fans to hear the beginnings of a group that is still going strong 40 years later. I always enjoyed that first album on RCA and I’m really enjoying this new release a whole heap as well. Having been a Tuna fan for a long time with every piece of music they put out whether it was acoustic or electric ……official or bootleg……in my collection……I must say that the first record has always been my favorite. This new CD has alot of the same charm to it that put that first record at the top of the stack. The set is like a greatest hits LIVE collection. It’s amazing how many of these songs that formed the bulk of the HT repertoire in the early days, are still a part of their live shows. This is timeless music folks……and it sounds as good now as it did then. Of the 13 tracks that comprise the new CD……all of them would find there way onto one of the three initial HT recordings. The cool thing about that is that you get to hear an early live version of “Keep On Truckin” that would make it onto HT’s third record, BURGERS, as a studio track three years later. The same goes for “True Religion” and “Sea Child”. It’s great hearing them in this earlier context. There is also a good representation of songs that would wind up on HT’s second record…
FIRST PULL UP – THEN PULL DOWN.

This new live set starts off with an upbeat “Come Back Baby”. Jorma has been performing this song at a slower pace the last few years…..with fine results…..but back then the song flew at a nice clip. A couple things that you will instantly notice and most likely enjoy…..The new LIVE CD has exceptionally super high fidelity…..and the mix is real nice. The bass is very up in the mix and Jack’s playing is just incredible…..you can hear why he is considered one of the greatest bass players of all time. This CD also features Will Scarlette on harmonica and I like his playing on this CD better then the official RCA original release, that also featured him. It seems that his playing on these unreleased performances is a little bit more restrained ….yet, when he gets his time to blow……he’s doing some great playing.

All the great HT songs are on this CD and they really get a chance to jam out on them……you see, HT was a jam band before such a classification existed. “Sea Child”, one of the great Kaukonen originals, gets a nice 10 minute plus workout and it really is an exciting LIVE version of this still popular HT favorite. This live set has a very organic feel to it and JK’s voice has a great vintage sound ! Aside from Jorma’s singing being classic……his guitar playing is ethereal….with all the classic elements at work here…….improv….speed….taste….bending and pulling great tones from his strings….it is JK doing what he does best!

In closing ……I can’t say enough good things about this NEW CD…..it sounds killer…..fidelity wise as well as for the great music contained within the 68 minutes of pure, vintage and classic Hot Tuna represented here. Maximum respect to Jorma and Jack…..and BIG THANKS to the folks that ran the tapes all those years ago…..I wonder if they knew how great they would sound 40 years on or what a great glimpse it would give present day listeners of the early days of Hot Tuna. A strong foundation was laid down ……and the house is still rockin!

SONG TITLES IN CD SEQUENCE…….Come Back Baby…Keep On Truckin’…Death Don’t Have No Mercy…Winin’ Boy Blues…Uncle Sam Blues….Know You Rider…Don’t You Leave Me Here….Never Happen No More…How Long Blues….True Religion…Sea Child….Candy Man….Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning.