August 26, 2009

Jug Band Music sounds so sweet,
sounds so sweet, it's hard to beat

Keeping with the theme of "hot weather" music, today's post features music from Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band. Maybe it's because jug band music originated in the American South, but listening to it always makes me think of hangin' out on the porch, keepin' out of the bright, hot sun.

The earliest jug band music came around the 1920s, with the Memphis Jug Band as one of the major players. In the early 60s, jug band music experienced a revival of sorts, and Jim Kweskin's group, based in Boston, was one of a small handful of groups to achieve nationwide popularity. It's interesting to note that some well-known names in music came from this latter-day jug band revival: both John Sebastian, later with The Lovin' Spoonful, and Maria Muldaur, who sang the 1974 hit "Midnight at the Oasis", played in the Even Dozen Jug Band (Muldaur was also a part of Kweskin's group, and can be heard on this album, particularly on tracks 5, 9, and 17). Members of The Instant Action Jug Band would later on join Country Joe and the Fish, a group well known for Vietnam war protest songs in the late 60s. Finally, a few lads named John, Paul, and George, who were members of the British skiffle group The Quarrymen, would go on to form a group called The Beatles, who I understand were quite popular in their day. Skiffle music differs from jug band music, but shares the same spirit of using a variety of homemade instruments such as washboards, cigar-box guitars, comb-and-paper kazoos, etc.

This is a 24-track, double-disc compilation of Kweskin's greatest, released in 1970 and is a great intro to jug-band revival music.

August 12, 2009

Hot Like Hawaii

Hot, hazy days like this call for a bit of lazy, loungy summertime music. Santo & Johnny were an Italian-American pair of brothers from New York, who became best known for their instrumental hit "Sleep Walk". This was featured on their 1959 self-titled debut album and has since been used in countless films, TV shows and commercials, making it a very recognizable piece of music.

Two years later, in 1961, Santo & Johnny released this album of Hawaiian-influenced music. According to the back cover notes of this LP, "... there are only two kinds of people, those that have been to Hawaii, and those that dream about going there ... if you are one of the dreamers who have not yet made this most pleasurable of pilgrimages, this album will be your jet clipper or luxury liner straight to entertainment. The carefree joy, that urge to run away to a tropical island that is not too well hidden in all of us, is somewhat fulfilled when you sit back, close your eyes, and feel Hawaii all around you."

So there you go. It ain't quite Hawaii itself, but you'll save on airfare.