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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jesse McReynolds

& Friends – Songs of the Grateful Dead

Review by Gary Hill

As the title declares, the songs here were all original Grateful Dead tunes. There was often a hint of country music in the Dead and this album shifts most of the material further in that direction. In fact, a lot of this would qualify as bluegrass, but it moves more into rock territory at times. It’s an interesting twist on songs that have been a part of the collective consciousness for a long time.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Black Muddy River

Done in a slow fashion, this is pretty and well rooted in bluegrass. It’s still recognizable as the Dead song, but this is definitely delivered in a down home country style.

Ripple
No less country, the treatment seems more appropriate on this number. I like this one a lot more than I did the opener.
The Wheel
There is a lot more of a folk rock element to this one, but some of the bluegrass still remains. This is one of the standouts of the set and really quite a cool jam.
Bird Song
For the most part the bluegrass has been removed from the music. It still remains in the vocal performance, though. This is another highlight of the disc. The extended jam on the tune is quite tasty.
Franklin's Tower
Here’s another that definitely has a lot more rock built into it. The country elements come in form of the overtones and the vocals. It’s another that’s stronger than some of the other music on the disc.
Standing on the Moon
A far slower number, the bluegrass is back in full swing here, but there are some more rock like sounds over the top at points.
Loser
A cool bluesy old time rock and roll sound is heard here, blended with some country. This is dramatic and quite cool. It’s another highlight of the set.
Fire on the Mountain

Somehow this feels a bit like a bluegrass meets Jimmy Buffet rendition of the Grateful Dead. It’s interesting, but seems like there should be a bit more fire. It’s not a bad tune, but just not exceptional.

Stella Blue
This one is intriguing. It’s a mellow, nearly psychedelic kind of bluesy ballad. There’s almost a Mazzy Star sort of element to it. It’s one of the most interesting pieces on show here.
Deep Elem Blues
A bouncy number, this is tasty, but also very well rooted in country music. It’s a change of pace, but not really a standout. There is some tasty piano on show, though and some other cool instrumental interplay.
Deal
They play this one more like an old time rock and roll number meets southern twang. It’s tasty and a nice change with some rag-time thrown in for good measure.
Alabama Getaway
The mode on this one is definitely rooted in 1950s rockabilly. It’s another that represents a change. It’s also another that stands taller than much of the other material. There is really quite a bit of Chuck Berry on this and only a few traces of the bluegrass sounds that dominate much of the CD.
Day by Day
Gospel music and bluegrass are the driving factors of the closing piece.
 
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