Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 2, 2009

Guitar Blues

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield
By Eric Sutter

From 1967's "Surrealistic Pillow" to his Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, Jorma Kaukonen continues to be the torchbearer for guitar blues. A founding member of two legendary bands - Jefferson Airplane and the still touring Hot Tuna, he is a 1996 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The evening's music began with one of three of Guitar Blues blues-happy trio... Kaukonen, Robben Ford and Ruthie Foster.

Foster opened with a short acoustic set of gospel, soul and blues from her CD "The Truth According to Ruthie Foster." A bluesy tune, "Lowdown Living in a Small Town," made the connection to a spiritual from Sister Rosetta Thorpe's "There's a Heaven Somewhere." She closed with "Travelin' Shoes." Her songs can be heard in the upcoming feature film, "Gospel Hill."

Jorma Kaukonen also connected the real world to spirit with "Comeback Baby" and "There is a Bright Spiritual Side Somewhere." He impressed the audience with his acoustic fingerstyle guitar playing, which was flawless as he interpreted the Reverend Gary Davis' "Death Don't Have No Mercy." He is a master interpreter of roots music, blues and Americana such as "Trouble in Mind."

Robben Ford is a fusion guitar player who combined elements of blues with jazz and R&B. He rocked "Spoonful" with bassist Duane Pate and his nephew drummer Gabriel Ford. He played "Supernatural," a funky jazz-blues workout. He also performed "Peace on My Mind" from 2007's "Truth" as Foster joined in on electric piano. She moved to acoustic guitar and added "Stone Love" to the peaceful mood. Her voice was a full-on blast of soul and blues as she sang, "I Really Love You" to the band's cool reggae vibe. Ford riffed electric guitar solos over "Rock Me All Night Long" with Kaukonen's powerful voice singing strong over his center stage lead guitar lines. The blues troupe encored with a spirit raising gospel consciousness version of Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" to a standing ovation.