Written by Jim Bille
Jul 14, 2006 at 08:00 PM
ImageWhat’s That Smell Like Fish?

Hot Tuna performed one of their classic acoustic shows at Warehouse Live on July 14th.

Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen accompanied by Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin and other assorted string instruments sat down at center stage and picked the evening apart. Guitar picked, that is.

Words like polished or precise cannot begin to describe how masterfully these guys ply their craft.
Jack Casady is the bass player’s bass player, while Kaukonen, playing what appeared to be a custom Gibson J35 guitar, is a master. His playing technique, which was demonstrated brilliantly this night, incorporates the use of a thumb pick and the balance of his digits to create an Appalachian – Delta blues sound. The rest of his music recipe is to sprinkle in a good dose of gospel, ragtime and bluegrass for that classic and distinctive Hot Tuna flavor.

Casady’s accompanying bass lines were flawless as ever. His eyebrows raised on each note played on his signature gold Epiphone bass guitar as he supplied the backbone for each number.

Barry Mitterhoff’s journeyman career as a ‘mandolin for hire’ player landed him a semi-permanent Hot Tuna gig after a mutual friend of Kaukonen’s hooked the two up for a project a few years back. His mandolin approach is classic bluegrass but can switch to blues and jazz in an instant. All of these styles rang from his instrument Friday night as his finger picking popped every crisp note he played for the delighted crowd.

The evening’s play list included traditional blues standards like “Parchmen Farm”, Mississippi John Hurt’s “Preaching on the Old Campground” and a jumping version of “Red River Blues”. Other tunes included incredibly soulful versions of “Come Back Baby”, and the Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have no Mercy”, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and “Let us Get Together Right Down Here”.

An incredibly brief history of Hot Tuna goes something like this… Jorma and Jack are both from the Washington D.C area. They met as youngsters in the late 50’s, both having similar interests in music. Eventually Jorma found himself in San Francisco in the early 1960’s. He auditioned for a band featuring Paul Kantner, made the cut, and was joined soon after by his pal Jack. The new band was called The Jefferson Airplane. The band took a very successful flight starting in 1965, which lasted for nine years. During this time, they recorded such rock classics as “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” as well as appearing at Woodstock in 1969. In 1996 Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hot Tuna recorded their first album not long after the Airplane break up, and are still going strong today.

Jorma and his wife opened “Fur Peace Ranch” in the late 90’s, a guitar camp in southeastern Ohio for anyone wanting to take lessons from the Hot Tuna bunch as well as other notable musicians.
Check out Hot Tuna’s web site for more information.

To paraphrase a classic Jefferson Airplane album title, “Bless their pointed little heads”!  This was a “Finger pickin’ good” show!