Jesse McReynolds and Friends – Songs Of The Grateful Dead – A Review
This CD was a real treat I received in the mail today. Jesse McReynolds and his brother Jim played in a bluegrass band that Jerry Garcia loved in the 60s and He would drive around the southern Bluegrass festivals of Alabama ,Virginia looking for his favorite groups. The wheel of life is so strange at times, He did meet Jesse and the group, but just got an autograph.
Forward to the 90’s and Jesse finds out about Jerry and the Grateful Dead and his second wife Joy is a Dead fan. One thing leads to another and he is together with David Nelson of the New Riders, and Stu Allen of The JGB and others of Jesse’s group. They put together a twelve set song list of Dead songs , plus a new song “Day by Day” written by Hunter and McReynolds.
Jerry Garcia would have loved this, Jesse really puts his soul into this and he comes across like someone who has known this music all of his life. His vocals and mandolin embrace the songs of Garcia and Hunter like no one else could. Plus having Stu Allen and David Nelson on guitar, there is some very Garcia like licks. He sings “Stella Blue” like He had lived the song and the music is so pretty with incredible pedal steel. This is not like a tribute album where someone rips thru the melodies, This guy lives them, having been very familiar with the Grateful Dead for over a Decade now. His version of “Deep Elem Blues” really bounces along a lot like Jerry would. Robert Hunter said “Jesse’s singing voice is like a long-lost brother voice between Jerry Garcia and David Nelson.”
I love Jesse doing “Deal”, sounds great. It sounds alot like Jerry’s original. The mandolin is sweet. Plus a great telecaster solo.
His version of “Ripple” is poetry in motion.
His song with Robert Hunter is an original called “Day By Day” which is a mid tempo song with real melodic mandolin and guitar, and the words are simple truths of life. Hunter really seemed to enjoy the song they wrote together.
The CD starts out with “Black Muddy River”, Jesse seems real comfortable with this and his mandolin is great here, he really has a very recognizable style, all his own. His version of “Franklin’s Tower” has a country feel to it. Please let me try to get this across, This has a real old timey traditional bluegrass sound, but is a great recording. I have to see what else this man has available in recordings.
To hear a bluegrass icon sing Grateful Dead songs written by a man (Jerry Garcia) who idolized him is a miracle. The kind I like.