In 1963, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band added a new dimension to the folk scene by introducing an exuberant blend of jazz, blues, rockabilly, and country to folk music. Kweskin, an innovative guitarist and singer, transported ragtime rhythms into traditional songs and tunes, turning listeners’ ears beyond staid versions of those tunes and songs.
Over the years, Kweskin has continued to collaborate with numerous singers and musicians, and on Never Too Late he happily shares the stage with some of his favorite women artists with whom he has recorded or performed during his career. The album serves up an eclectic blend of Americana in Kweskin’s inventive style.
The album kicks off in grand style with the New Orleans rag meets the St. Louis blues of Lil Hardin Armstrong’s “Let’s Get Happy Together.” Maria Muldaur, a member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, brings her sultry vocals to swirling dance-across-the-floor rhythms of the song, which follows the musical lead of Dennis Lichtman’s snaking clarinet lines. Kweskin’s granddaughter Fiona blends her pure, ringing vocal harmonies with Kweskin’s gravely vocals on “Side by Side,” the song made famous by Kay Starr. Cindy Cashdollar’s dobro and Suzy Thompson’s fiddle lay down the jaunty foundation of the swinging song.
Meredith Axelrod joins Kweskin for a rollicking duet on Woody Guthrie’s “Sally Don’t You Grieve,” while Rose Guerin takes the lead on the smoky, slowly unfurling twelve-bar blues of Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth.” Nell Foote & Group Choir’s ethereal vocals on the traditional “The Lone Pilgrim,” sung against the background of Thompson’s mournful fiddle and Cashdollar’s aching dobro, evoke the sorrow and loneliness of the song’s protagonist. Juli Crockett’s shimmering vocals ascend higher and higher on the swirling and whirling Gypsy jazz version of the traditional ballad “Moby Dick.” Guerin joins Kweskin for a loping take on Leadbelly’s “Relax Your Mind,” while Muldaur teams up with Kweskin on the ragtime swinger “The Sheik of Araby.” Samoa Wilson duets with Kweskin on a poignant version Lulu Belle and Scotty’s tearful country song “Remember Me.”
A high-spirited romp through the musical fields of Americana music, Never Too Late features vibrant vocal performances and memorable takes on familiar songs. Kweskin and his collaborators breathe new life into these performances and capture the essence of the songs for new audiences, too.
Never Too Late is available HERE