Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band – Best Of (1968)

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Jug bands! Right? Okay, so they’re not for everyone. Especially these days – there probably aren’t too many jug bands showing up on America’s Got Talent, or climbing the iTunes charts. When was the last time you went to get a beer and slid that quarter into the juke box, turned around, and exclaimed “God I love this bathtub bass line!”

But, in the mid to late sixties, jug bands were actually…a thing. Like, there was a jug band scene. It mostly evolved from traditional Appalachian folk music, and there was a little jug band revival that people got really into, the way we all got into swing music in the late nineties.

Remember that? The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies (gross), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers? What was that all about? That movie Swingers? Big hats? Skanking?

So the whole swing thing came and went pretty quickly, but in the sixties, there was a folk revivalist movement that was a pretty big deal. Jim Kweskin is often looped in with that movement, but he wasn't doing jug band music just to take advantage of the craze. He's more like Brian Setzer - who was roped into the whole swing revival but really had making music like that his whole career. 

Kweskin had been around doing jug band music longer than some of the bigger, more popular Appalachian folk bands (like the Lovin’ Spoonful, for example). Born in Stamford, CT, he jumped around Boston playing folk clubs and coffee houses. He quickly became a fixture on the jug band/folk scene, and a by 1963 he had put together an all-star band of folk artists. Thus was born the Kweskin Jug Band. 


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I know there’s nothing too sexy about jug band music, but if I can sell you at all on this record; it’s really fun. Kweskin definitely knew how to keep it light. He wasn’t interested in revivalism and this isn't Appalachian folk paint-by-numbers. Instead, he uses the genre as a touchstone and rolls out the fun from there.

[ mp3 ]: Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band – Jug Band Music

Also worth nothing is that a lot of this kind of folk music was seen as a part of the anti-war movement. But Kweskin didn’t insert Vietnam into his music. He was a-political, and the music was just about having a good time. A little escapist, yes, but sometimes that’s exactly what music should be. There’s not many songs that as carefree as the Boodle Am Shake:

[ mp3 ]: Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band – Boodle Am Shake

Also, I kind of love this answer to Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man.”

[ mp3 ]: Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band – I’m a Woman

All in all, it's hard to listen to this record without trying to place it within the mid-sixties folk revivalist movement. But if you can pretend you're in someone's backyard in West Virginia (but not in a sad Winter's Bone kind of way), then this record is a party in a cardboard sleeve. Enjoy!

-N.W.


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3.5 / 5 DADS

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4 / 5 SONS