I personally believe that their are few greater things a well known musician can do to his fans then introduce them to heavily different music. Which is exactly what Jerry Garcia (Front man of The Grateful Dead) did.
Garcia's life, since the passing away of his father early on in his life, strongly consisted of Bluegrass, Country, and Folk. Following the loss of his father during a day by the beach, Jerry, his mother, and his brother Tiff Garcia moved in with Jerry's mother's parents. Since moving from Spain, Garcia's grandmother was a large fan of Country and it's similar genres. She would play them constantly to Jerry. And surely over time, Jerry was a huge fan, and even started playing the music. Soon enough, Rock 'n' Roll would come to the West coast and capture Garcia and he would start playing it.
Until Garcia decided to make a roots album with The Grateful Dead, Country had strongly lacked in his music. But he was still unsatisfied with his side that needed to play the genres strait up, which wasn't happening. So, two years later, he decided to put a Bluegrass band together.
He got together with some of the now greatest Bluegrass musicians (let alone musicians in general) to search for a rapid, old time, high lonesome sound, as a side project and mainly live act. He contacted his good friend and the greatest mandolin player ever, David Grisman. Who collaborated with The Grateful Dead and Garcia on many occasions. Grisman, who use to play in the Muleskinners with Peter Rowan, managed to get Rowan also. And somewhere along the lines, they found Clements and Kahn.
Garcia decided to play banjo in this collaboration. An instrument he grew talented on since the late 50's. Though his strongest skill lie upon the guitar, being a banjoist myself, I could tell you that he is definitely not one to boot on the banjo. Oddly enough though, he just may be the weakest musician (on their instrument) in the band. Which of course says how fabulous the other musicians are. Especially Clements and Grisman in my opinion.
Pig in a Pen
A perfect opener for an astonishing album. It all begins with the sounds of a crowd shouting, and a few instrumental noises in the background. Quickly, Garcia's banjo plays a mix of very rapid rolls. Soon enough, each instrument adds in, and shows great skill. The vocals are sang by Jerry, but the song is traditionally written. The groove is fantastic. Each musician curves in and out of each other's playing, and is always accomplished flawlessly. Garcia, Vassar, and Grisman completely own this song with such amazing solos, that it's just is indescribable. Perfection!!
This track opens with Garcia's almost subtle playing, and each instrument adds in softly. The song is not slow paced, it's upbeat, and flows nicely. Rowan both wrote the song, and sings it. He also plays a simple, yet solid rhythm. The song really shows off backup lead skills. It is almost like the other musicians do not notice him there, because he is just soloing away in the background all the time. The track is a six minute and twelve second jam that is kept alive by various solos, that cannot make the music anymore interesting. A standout track without a doubt.
Old and in the Way
"Old and in the Way" was originally a David Grisman songs, which is what the band decided to name themselves after of course. The tune has such a great beat to it, but their is of course no drumming, but the music doesn't even need it. David sings the song, when the multi part harmonies are calmed down. The lyric tell an interesting story of a man who is ignored because of his age. The line " Gold will turn to gray, and youth with turn to age. They'll never care about you, call you old and in the way." describes the overall tone perfectly. Once again a perfect song.
Knockin' on Your Door
Here's a stand out track that opens with the sound of someone knocking on wood. Resembling the sound of one knocking on a door of course. Soon after, Rowan enters with a guitar riff, and singing in a high pitched tone "I'm... knockin' on your door again my darlin'". The sound is very interesting, as is his guitar riffs, and the music that matches it. One of my favorite Garcia solos enters this song at about two minutes, it's played in a simple way, but is timed perfectly. "Knockin' on Your Door" also shows Peter's vocals skills. He can carry a note in perfect key for quite a while. Fabulous song.
The Hobo Song
This song is a little hard to describe. It slightly reminds me of "Midnight Moonlight", but tells the story of a Hobo, obviously. The song is sang in a sad tone, by Rowan. The story is very interesting. The lyrics give information about the hobo, how he use to be a gamblin' man, was a war veteran, killed many Indians, etc. The music is of course fantastic, but I usually play more attention to the lyrics and vocals.
Such an off timed song about a man named Panama Red. Which is tricky, needless to say. I love the banjo playing, though their is much emphasis on the vocals, and harmonies. Vassar Clements actually gets a leading solo on this track, which he nails perfectly. The song is overall a little better than average. It doesn't live up it's name though :upset:.
"Wild Horses" is an original Mick Jagger and Keith Richards song they played with The Rolling Stones, but it is also actually a commonly played song by Country musicians. The song is quite sad, and the playing is mostly rhythm, but it flows great. Once again the song is mostly based upon the vocals, but the playing is great. The chorus, which is sand in unison, sounds like a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song (like "Helplessly Hoping"). The highlight would be a great, mainly strummed solo by Grisman, which of course fits the song perfectly.
"Kissimmee Kid" is a Vassar Clements written song. The song is of course strongly based upon Clements' playing, which is amazing. The song has a great beat, which is only produced by the crowd's constant clapping. John Kahn's rhythmic bass playing is spot on, and is more heard on this track than any other on Old & In the Way. The song is an instrumental and features solos from every member but Kahn and Rowan. Great song.
"White Dove" is a cover, originally done by Carter Stanley, but sang by Jerry Garcia. The song is more of a Country tune than Bluegrass. Garcia uses much emotion to express the feelings the writer felt while writing the lyrics. Instrumentally, the song is based upon Rowan's guitar playing, and Clements' fiddle playing. Occasionally Garcia and Grisman added little interludes and fills. The song has everything it really needs, no musician is really greedy for the spotlight. And I find it to be almost perfectly organized, but surely perfectly played. Great tune.
Land of the Navajo
Here is a more dark, progressive song. It is of course about Indians, more specifically the Navajo tribe. The lyrics tell a story of a man, performing tasks, crimes, etc, in the land of the Navajo. I particularly like the chorus, it is simple but rhymes nicely. Rowan sings and wrote the song, like most the others. Vassar gives off a variety of solos, but my favorite would have to be one Garcia throws in the song at about three minutes in. Great song, and perfect closer.