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Stars in My Crown

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 13, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-enshrined guitarist and founder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna returns with a stunning acoustic masterpiece, his first new recording since 2002's Grammy-nominated Blue Country Heart.

Continuing the journey through American roots music he started in the early 1960's, Jorma cooks up a tasty collection of down-home blues, bluegrass, folk, country gospel and reggae. Stars In My Crown was recorded in Nashville and is rooted in classic Americana, flavored with a laid-back bluesy feel.

With fresh takes on soul-searching spirituals and many original compositions, the new record is vastly more personal than previous recordings, as evidenced by the self-penned "Heart Temporary," "A Life Well Lived," and "Living In The Moment." The album reveals Kaukonen's increasingly reflective outlook as the success of his Fur Peace Guitar Ranch and his full and varied life of music and family leads him to ask on the liner notes "Who would have thought that life would be this good?"

Jorma's love for Lightnin' Hopkins manifests in "Come Back Baby," and his continued channeling of Reverend Gary Davis is heard in "There's A Table Sitting In Heaven." A satisfying jewel is Jorma's cover of the classic reggae song "The Rivers Of Babylon." After Jerry Garcia gave him his first reggae album - the soundtrack to the movie The Harder They Come - Kaukonen always wanted to record the tune. "This is crucial reggae for sure," says Jorma.

Backing Kaukonen are the outstanding talents of Barry Mitterhoff (Hot Tuna), Rob Ickes (Blue Highway), Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble), Tim Stafford (Blue Highway, Alison Krauss), Greg Leisz (Dave Alvin) and Sally Van Meter (Tony Furtado Band). Produced by Byron House (Sam Bush Band), Stars in My Crown is the album that fans and critics have been anxiously awaiting.

Amazon.com

Five years after Blue Country Heart, Stars in My Crown finds Jorma Kaukonen continuing and expanding on that Grammy-nominated work. It's again a relaxed setting, but the stylistic range has taken on a compelling diversity. Not generally a prolific writer, Kaukonen has written a welcome five of the disc's fourteen numbers this time out. They range from the perfect and prayerful opener "Overture: Heart Temporary," with its 12-piece string section holding his acoustic guitar and vocal aloft, to the lilting instrumental "A Life Well Lived." Kaukonen's choice of covers has left him room to make them his own, while also adding to the portrait of who he is as an artist, and how he got there. It would be right to expect a Rev. Gary Davis song on this album, and there are two of them, but it's his take on Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" that amazes. It's an audacious choice for reinterpretation in which he both honors the original and finds a natural ease for his own voice. Throughout the entire set, the small and subtly varying ensemble plays with elegant style, peppered with occasional playful hijinks. --David Greenberger
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 13, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Red House
  • ASIN: B000MM1F3M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,016 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mike VINE VOICE on March 16, 2007
Format: Audio CD
The title of my review is from Jorma's liner notes to "Stars In My Crown." He talks about "living a simple life with my music" and as a fan of the man and his music for the last 40 years, I've got to say I've never heard him more relaxed and natural. Remember the albums he did for Relix Records like "Too Hot To Handle?" Jorma was still dancing with a few of his demons then, and it showed (as did the fact that Relix was the ultimate low-rent, low budget label). Fans of acoustic Hot Tuna will enjoy Lightning Hopkins' "Come Back Baby," and the opener "Heart Temporary," a Jorma original, perfectly captures the "bittersweet and beautiful but never sugary" tone of his best work. "Late Breaking News" is more "Burgers"-era Jorma, while The Rev. Gary Davis' "There's A Table Sitting In Heaven" will take you back in spirit to Jorma's earlier Rev. G.D. tune "I Am The Light Of This World." Think of "Stars In My Crown" as a postcard from an old and treasured friend. The fact that Jorma's happy and still making heartfelt, vital music at age 66 is reason to celebrate.
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Format: Audio CD
Jorma Kaukonen has come full circle on Stars in My Crown. At a young age he drew deep from the well that Rev. Gary Davis provided, a man known for his elaborate fingerstyle fretwork. Kaukonen adopted and mastered this style.

Along the way, there was more that he would take to heart. "I was fond of gospel and spirituals," Kaukonen writes in the liner notes of this CD. "My mom had turned me onto Mahalia Jackson when I was a kid in D.C., and gospel music always seemed to be a comfortable place to go."

As a founder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, his music took him down different roads, "but spirituals always seem to help light the way," he recalls. This explains Jefferson Airplane's recording of the obscure spiritual "Good Shepherd," when they were at the pinnacle of their career. It was one of their best songs. Kaukonen's connection with gospel and roots music has always been an influence, but its out in the open on this CD.

"Overture: Heart Temporary," written by Kaukonen, starts it off with a stunningly beautiful combination of music and spiritual reflection. The chorus reminds us of our need for grace: "When the best you have to offer falls short of the mark, self-inflicted holes are piercing deep within your heart." As he reflects on the best moments in life, he sings, "At such a time you think you'd find, a way to show your heart. And though you're reaching for her hand, still you walk apart." This is one of a number of songs reflecting simple but profound insights on life.

The music is acoustic, sparse and in a mellower vein, reflecting a man at peace with his maker, himself and the world around him.
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Format: Audio CD
Jorma has cultivated a time honored set of personal spiritual tunes that are uniquely reflective and reverent. His guitar mastery fosters renewed interpretation of old time blues classics as well as leads us to new revelations. I loved how Jorma crafted the tribute to American country blues heritage on his previous recording, Blue Country Heart. The tradition is furthered happily with Stars in My Crown. We are gifted to Jorma's keen jeweler's eye as each track becomes a fine cut diamond. Jorma carves out for the listener an instinctual sound that enlists our trust by building a mutual affinity.

Jorma's maturity as an artist combines intuitive depth with focused simplicity. There are several enchanting new songs to engage you such as Late Breaking News and Heart Temporary. I have yearned to hear Jorma Kaukonen to record more Rev. Gary Davis songs. He appeases that need by including two of his songs on the CD, There's a Table Sitting in Heaven and Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown. Another new song, Living In The Moment places us on the Fur Peace Ranch back porch rocking alongside Jorma in our easy chair.

Jorma, thank you for an insightful series of spiritual tunes that deepens our awareness and embellishes the music of our heart and souls!
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Format: Audio CD
I have read all of the reviews and so agree with many of you about it being on of the finest musicianship compellations Jorma has put together. Not to mention some of the finest picking that he has done. This is an all-star line up and the production is amazing. Great work by the man Byron House. For those of you who were and are turned off by the song choices and it being to religious, I have to say that I respect your comments but feel you are way off about what Jorma is trying to get across with this album. Yes Jorma is very spiritual, but please listen to this album again and if you truly listen and know Jorma the way you are saying that you do you will see and learn just how clear it is that this is basically his life story or biography if you will...Not a way to push religion down your neck.

Jorma clearly put his heart, mind and soul in to this. When I listen to this CD, I think of the many years that I have followed Jorma from his Airplane days all the way up to now and it is all right there in the lyrics that he is singing.

Great work by a great man who beat the odds of his era and is still here to tell his story!
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