Letter from the Ranch: Coming Home to Americana by Jorma Kaukonen

Letter from the Ranch: Coming Home to Americana by Jorma KaukonenI started out playing bluegrass, old-timey, rockabilly and the like when I was 14 years old. I was then dragged kicking and screaming into the world of rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelia. I didn’t know it then, but the music I loved would wind up being called “Americana.” So, the real shift, for me, was not from rock music to Americana, but, initially, from Americana to rock. Coming back home to Americana later on was an obvious choice.

To me, good music is timeless. When I do a song by one of the old masters such as Rev. Gary Davis or Blind Boy Fuller, I don’t seek to clone their performance. I never really had the talent to do that anyway, so what became important to me was making the song mine as soon as possible without losing the connection to the original artist. Presenting these gems in a modern context, as on River of Time, is what I strive for.

Americana players are a sociable lot in a very sociable art form with few, if any, boundaries. All are welcome and you don’t need a semi full of gear! The Fur Peace Ranch is a home place for sociable musicians. We teach many instruments at the good old FPR, but the guitar tends to be the main course, and though finger-picking’s not mainstream, it is far from lost. Like Americana, it’s growing exponentially. Solo fingerstyle guitar was always an inviting art form, and there are young players out today that routinely do things that would have been inconceivable when I was their age, like Ed Sheeran, who’s out on the Taylor Swift tour; or Geoff Achison, an Australian bloke who is primarily an electric blues master but who is also brilliant on the acoustic guitar; or Pete Huttlinger, Toby Walker and countless others I don’t even know.

I have gained a lot of visibility and some measure of success as a result of my being one of those strange and disparate gaggle of characters that comprised Jefferson Airplane. Thanks guys and gals… I owe you! Having come to the light on this ride in an Airplane, I now find myself more comfortable on my tractor or in my four-wheel drive truck.

Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma Kaukonen began his career as a teenager playing with future Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna bandmate Jack Casady. Kaukonen’s guitar work has widely influenced other guitarists; he was named the 54th greatest rock guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke. Kaukonen currently owns the Fur Peace Ranch, a music and guitar camp and recording studio in Ohio. His last release, River of Time, pays tribute to greats from Mississippi John Hurt to Rev. Gary Davis

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