In 1991 The Grateful Dead were at the peak of their "mainstream" success. Paradoxically they were also at the peak of their decline as front man Jerry Garcia would be dead just a few short years later. It was a weird time to be sure as the band had wildly varying returns on the quality of their performances, until at last, they became a metaphorical death rattle. And then it was over.
But this isn't about the Grateful Dead or Garcia's role in it. This is about Garcia the bluegrass musician. It's well documented that Garcia had an affinity for bluegrass and country (He played the pedal steel on CSNY's "Teach Your Children) there is no better record of that than this recording of the band he formed with longtime friend and bluegrass legend, David Grisman. The Grateful Dead were in large part fueled by the American songbook, and there's no exception to that here, but stripped down and paired with a master mandolin player and his band, Garcia has never sounded so good. A sign of a great guitarist is that you know they are playing no matter what they are playing. Garcia, whether you believe it or not, was one of the best guitar players in recent generations and absolutely shines here.
This recording is a rollicking, rolling and master set that gives us a peek at two masters playing at the peak of their powers. And it also happens to be something that's great to listen to while you're grilling your dogs, drinking your beers, or whatever it is you intend to do this Memorial Day weekend. If you've heard this, and it's very widely circulated, great. Listen to it again. If not, you're in for a real treat. Sobreak out bongzilla kick back this weekend, enjoy the sunshine with some friends soak in this fantastic music that sadly, will never happen again.
Happy Memorial Day everyone!