Keep on Truckin': The Very Best of Hot Tuna
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6
Written by John Metzger
There’s an argument to be made that Hot Tuna currently is creating some of the best music of its career, at least on stage, but its sporadic output since the late ’70s has left few options for assembling a proper retrospective package. As a result, all of the overviews of the band’s work, including the recent, 14-track collection Keep on Truckin’: The Very Best of Hot Tuna, have focused entirely upon its outings for RCA. As was the case with its predecessors, Keep on Truckin’ is missing several key tracks, and this time, Hit Single #1, 99 Year Blues, and New Song (for the Morning) are noticeably absent. Nevertheless, the compilation’s even-handed approach to culling material from each of the eight albums that Hot Tuna recorded between 1969 and 1978 is sufficient for distilling the ensemble’s essence into a solid, single-disc set.
Incorporating the freewheeling experimentalism of the ’60s into the traditional work of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and, most importantly, Rev. Gary Davis, Hot Tuna developed an adaptable style that suitably allowed it to embed its blues-based framework within a diverse array of textures. Weaving an intricately intertwined pattern of guitar and bass, the group thoroughly explored the dark corners of Davis’ Death Don’t Have No Mercy; while the noisy clatter of harmonica, violin, and electric guitar rode upon the thrashing, elastic groove that propelled its interpretation of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Come Back Baby. Elsewhere, the band fully succumbed to the rippling currents that flowed through the instrumental Water Song, slithered its way through Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues, and tread lightly along the winding corridors of Killing Time in the Crystal City. Presented chronologically, the selections on Keep on Truckin’ essentially follow the ensemble as it moved from its early, acoustic-minded excursions to its easy-going, country-blues rambles to its fully amplified, heavy metal-imbued stampedes. In spite of several shifts in personnel along the way, the unwavering focus and sterling musicianship of founding members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady provided the cohesive vision that bound it all together. ½
Of Further Interest...
Keep on Truckin': The Very Best of Hot Tuna is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box