Jim Kweskin – Jim Kweskin’s America
Reprise Records 6464 (1971)
01 – Back in the Saddle
02 – Sugar Babe
03 – Okie from Muskogee
04 – 99 Year Blues
05 – Ramblin’ Round Your City
06 – Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight
07 – Stealin’
08 – Old Rugged Cross
09 – Dark as a Dungeon
10 – Old Black Joe
Jim Kweskin (Cancer) – Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
Mel Lyman (Aries) – Harmonica, Vocals
Etta Green (Pisces) – Cello, Vocals
Mayne Smith (Pisces) – Dobro, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
Reed Wasson (Gemini) – Bass Guitar
Marilyn Kweskin (Gemini) – Vocals
Richard Herbruck (Gemini) – Narrator
Producer – Richard Herbruck
Recorded at Pacific High Recording, San Francisco (Aries)
Engineer – Phil Sawyer (Aquarius)
Front Cover Collage, Susan B. Lyman (Aries)
Liner notes by Richard Herbruck (Gemini):
When Jim first called me in New York to come out to San Francisco and help him produce an album of “American” music I was more than a little hesitant as I was currently engaged in trying to start the second “American” Revolution and didn’t quite know if the two projects were reconcilable.
Having just recently closed my now defunct “History of Rhythm and Blues” series with KPFK in Los Angeles I was more than a little wary of entering upon a new musical enterprise but he assured me that there would be no outside interference and I was free to follow my own whims and impulses as time and space allowed and so I dismissed any further creeping uncertainties and cast my fate to the wind.
I embarked upon my new adventure by air and can even now recall how with great confidence and bravado I impressed upon Captain Pettigrew the importance of this record.
We stood in the lounge of the 747 Jet excitedly discussing the merits of this or that kind of music and when I told him people were flying in from all over the country to participate in this album he was duly amazed.
By this time I was quite overtaken by the spirit of this record we were about to create and I even ventured so far as to guarantee him it would be a success.
I don’t know who was flying the plane.
Jim’s Road Manager, O.D. Long, met me at the airport and accompanied me to my Suite and early the next morning I entered Mr. Weston’s studio for the first time.
All the musicians had already arrived. Mel Lyman had flown in from Boston.
Reed Wasson, the renowned Jazz Bassist, had left his job as legal advisor to the Tehachapee Indians in upper New Mexico and flown in by private plane.
Etta Green had abandoned her post with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra to come out and attempt to imitate country fiddle on her cello.
Mayne Smith had come down from Alaska to play the dobro. Many more were assembled and as we milled around making small talk and getting acquainted we somehow felt we were on the verge of some great historic gathering.
I, myself, was almost in tears when Jim asked me to play the tuba on “Stealing” as there are so few who really can comprehend the virtues of that great instrument. But that was only the beginning.
From the very opening moments there was an aura of excitement in the air, this was no ordinary recording session, the Muses were with us!
The music flowed easily and the studio reverberated with a sound that we knew we were only partly responsible for.
When I delivered the stirring testimonial in “Okie from Muskogee” the words seemed to enter and pass through me from some far off distant place, I scarcely knew what I said.
Mel crouched over his harmonica and seemed to shake all over, Reed towered and swayed as though on the strings of some gigantic puppeteer.
The women drifted in and out like remnants of a celestial choir and Jim was clearly in another world.
Etta later testified she had never reached more inspiring heights and even Phil, the recording engineer, could not restrain himself from occasionally bursting into song.
All in all it was a magnificent experience, one to never be duplicated. As the last day of the session drew to a close all the musicians magically left their instruments and gathered around a microphone to join voices in a glowing tribute to the beloved Stephen Foster.
And then we were done. The spirit of this once great country of ours had come and left its mark as minute little tracings in a plastic disc and the second American Revolution was underway.
—sincerely, Richard Herbruck
My soul was born in Cancer and it was born into the great river of the American Soul, still flowing in deep strains of hope and conquest.
That soul was the Freedom that the earliest Americans dreamed and fought for which was the freedom to find God in themselves and follow Him, and it was finally born on earth as the spirit of a nation which would live in men, in Cancer . . . the sign of the birth of God in Man.
Throughout the life of this country that soul has been shared and carried by great men who lived to bring it to the PEOPLE.
It has appeared in all ways but it has been most greatly loved and rejoiced in through its music.
Those who sang it best sprang right from that soul and spent their lives singing it out.
At every turning point in the life of America a Cancer has stood up to sing new soul as it flowed into the old and transformed it.
Stephen Foster, George M. Cohan, Louis Armstrong, Woody Guthrie, Jessie Benton were all born as America was reborn and each was a prophet who did not speak of history but sung purely from the heart that creates it . . . and people who could truely hear them have felt history before it happened.
I am here once again to sing that song for you. And as this album was born in a burst of spirit and recorded simply in three days as it was sung . . . a new life for the world is bursting forth from the Heart of America.
The soul that is born in Cancer must always find its completion in Aries, when God and man become one.
You can read the story of it in Mirror at the End of the Road by Mel Lyman.
It is the story of his life from the moment it doubts itself and receives its first intimations of immortality to the time it becomes God as it grows from Cancer to Aries.
You can hear that story on this album if you will step aside and let your soul listen.
I am singing America to you and it is Mel Lyman. He is the new soul of the world.
Jim Kweskin’s America (liner notes) (pdf 102KB)