In 1974 I was a year out of high school, matriculating (sort of) at College of San Mateo just south of San Francisco. My favorite music was–wait for it–John Denver. I’m sure I was busy listening to his live album and his anthemic “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.” I loved James Taylor, Loggins and Messina. Nothing heavy. No Jethro Tull, no Robin Trower. Beatles okay, but the Stones were at best questionable. It was the golden age of the singer/songwriter and I was listening to the worst of them.
Why did it take me an entire lifetime to discover Jorma Kaukonen’s Quah? Maybe it was the title. Maybe it was Jorma. Likely it was just me. I picked up Quah in Denver a couple weeks ago, to follow a thread in my Jefferson Airplane collection. Just got done listening to it and what I heard was completely unexpected.
By 1974 Kaukonen was knee deep in his Hot Tuna collaboration with friend and bandmate Jack Cassady. By that time the band had released its fourth record, Phosphorescent Rat.
But in the same year Kaukonen also released this collection of acoustic music. It is eleven songs recorded in studio. Jorma played acoustic guitar and does most of the vocals, though he is joined by Tom Hobson on two selections. It’s a great singer/songwriter album. Some tracks are simple and straightforward, some are blues influenced, others with more of a folk vibe. All songs are played with a deep respect for the genre, and provide Jorma the opportunity to show off his considerable guitar chops.
Genesis is the first song on side A. It is a beautiful love song, with just the right touch of strings to tug your heart. Whatever you pay for this record, Genesis is worth the price of admission. It is transporting. Though none of the other songs stand out as much, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. “I Am the Light of This World” reminds us that this was a more optimistic time and there was a belief that music could change the world. “Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine is fun and silly.”
Quah was produced by jack Cassady. It is a straightforward acoustic album, but with intricacy and artistry, if not wide commercial appeal. I put it down on my list of discoveries in this. my 60th year.