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Grateful Dawg (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

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Album Review

Though nominally the soundtrack to filmmaker Gillian Grisman's documentary about the close musical friendship between her father, legendary mandolinist David Grisman, and Jerry Garcia, late founder of the Grateful Dead, Grateful Dawg also functions as the sixth release by the duo and their first live recording. The live recordings of a Garcia and Grisman show from the early '90s (backed ably by members of the David Grisman Quintet) are intercut with several archival cuts by the likes of Bill Monroe, Ewan MacColl, and Old and in the Way, the bluegrass supergroup both Garcia and Grisman picked in during the early '70s. There is a nice narrative flow to the arrangement of the material which provides a depth to the wonderfully warm musical rapport shared by the duo. The background material focuses on the band's folk and bluegrass roots but, unfortunately, leaves the group's undeniably huge jazz influences aside. There is hardly room on the CD, but a cut by Django Reinhardt would have done well to accentuate that element of the pair's music. Though the disc is poorly annotated (a rarity in the Grisman catalog), it is little matter. The live cuts are impeccably mixed and a joy to listen to, particularly quiet numbers like the jazzy "Dawg's Waltz" and the sprawling 16-minute reading of "Arabia." Perhaps even more impressively, Garcia is at relatively full control his spectacularly expressive voice for what might be the last point in his career. The David Grisman Quintet, including ultra-subtle percussionist Joe Craven, provides an accompaniment far more sensitive and sympathetic than what the Grateful Dead were capable of at the time.


Born: 23 March 1945 in Hackensack, NJ

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

David Grisman is normally associated with the bluegrass wing of country music, but his music owes almost as much to jazz as it does to traditional American folk influences. Because he couldn't think of what to call his unique, highly intricate, harmonically advanced hybrid of acoustic bluegrass, folk, and jazz without leaning toward one idiom or another, he offhandedly decided to call it "dawg music" -- a name which, curiously enough, has stuck. A brilliant mandolinist, with roots deep in the Quintet...
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