It would hardly even be an opinion if I stated that David Grisman is one of the most talented and diverse musicians ever. He has rarely stayed put in one genre without combining it with another. Because of these odd combinations, David’s sound has been often looked at as original and indescribable. “Dawg” - An intricate mix of Folk, Bluegrass, American Traditional String music, and various sub genres of Jazz performed by mandolin virtuoso David Grisman. That definition suites his music almost perfectly.
David Grisman started his musical career inside of his home state of New Jersey. During his early years he grew fond of piano, saxophone and most importantly mandolin. His main interests were surrounding Bluegrass and Root genres. An influence of Bluegrass founder (Though not original players) Bill Monroe must have been present. For he also was a lead mandolinist and also shared some of the same style characteristics as currently young David would. Also, being that a good portion of Grisman’s teen years were during the 1950’s, he was subjected to Rock ‘n’ Roll influence. Though the influence was largely shown, it was none the less there.
David Grisman’s career took off much more than previously while attending college in New York. He would join a jug band with John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonful). Though that band, entitled the Even Dozen Jug Bad, lacked success, it would take him to his next group, the Kentuckians. And soon to another, more important band. David would join forces with guitarist and vocalist Peter Rowan in Earth Opera. Which blended many of Grisman’s familiar genres, and a little bit of Rock music. A short time later, Grisman would make his way west, to San Francisco. There he would become friends with Grateful Dead leader and guitarist Jerry Garcia. Garcia would not only help Grisman achieve success in music in genre, but would play a major role in his future.
Garcia would ask Grisman to join his Bluegrass side project/super group. The band would include former band mate Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals, Jerry Garcia on banjo, Vassar Clements on fiddle, and John Kahn on bass. They along with Grisman would call themselves “Old & In the Way”. Though their career hadn’t lasted long, they would be looked at as one of Bluegrass’ top selling artists, and most talented.
In later years, Grisman would help form the Great American String Band and the David Grisman Quintet. The David Grisman Quintet would bring up one of Grisman’s other musical partners, Tony Rice. Tony Rice is commonly looked upon as Bluegrass’ most talented guitarist. His rendition of “Black Berry Blossom” is surely amazing, and should be heard by all. In time, David would do many collaborations with Rice. Also, about 5 years before Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995, he and the mandolinist had joined together to put out many Folk albums. More currently though, David spends time releasing unheard Jerry Garcia & David Grisman collaborations, and playing at various live events.
Hot Dawg is looked at as Grisman’s best to most. It lacks much of his Bluegrass style that is commonly shown on other albums, but displays his fantastic Jazz work, Django Reinhardt influence, and even some Folk talent. Though there is not one unacceptable and outstanding track on the album, two highlights above all highlights would have to be the Folk “Dawg’s Bull”, and the Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt cover of “Minor Swing”. Each displaying beautiful compositions, virtuosity and talent. Even if Hot Dawg is not Grisman’s climax, it is certainly a fantastic piece of work.
A perfect opener, and definitely the best track on the album. “Dawg’s Bull” displays much of Grisman’s Folk talent and overall writing skill. The timing of each instrument and composition is just fabulous. Altogether displaying a lot about Grisman as a musician. “Dawg’s Bull” has a fantastic mandolin line. The line is upbeat fast, and technically quite odd. The line is not ran through by each musician as much as I would like it to be, so during the remainder of the time when not performing the riff, each musician gets time to solo. Like man Bluegrass and Jazz jams do. Out of all the outstanding solo’s performed by Rice, Grisman and Anger, Grisman’s is easily the best and most interesting. Outstanding song.
A slower more beautiful piece. The piece has a definite different format compared to the previous track. Tony Rice and Buell Neidlinger provide a solid backbone for Grisman and Anger. While Rice performs many beautiful chords, David plays over them with lightning fast strumming. Anger and Rice do go on to play lead, but both do not make their presence as known as Grisman. At certain points during the song, Grisman and Anger perform a dual solo, and really add something interesting to an already nice song.
“Minor Swing” actually is a Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli cover. Both musicians played a large role in David Grisman’s career. Each influenced him beyond belief. Even without the known writers, it is easy to tell that this is a Django Reinhardt piece. The rapid soloing over the thumping bass is a definite sign in my opinion. Grisman actually managed to he Stephane Grappelli to play on this track. Grappelli is also without a doubt the main focus on “Minor Swing” and shows of a loud of skills perfectly. Very interesting song.
An interesting piece. The playing is rapid, but the vibe is quite subtle. The combination of each instrument overlapped is quite outstanding, only for solos do they break. The combination of Tony rice’s flawless playing and Grisman’s quick motions up and down the fret board are surely memorable and a highlight to the song. A large portion of the rhythm is kept by rhythm mandolinist Mike Marshall. Who I believe is not needed, but perhaps the rather nice sound would be altered for the worst if “Dawgology” lacked that second mandolin. “Dawgology” also includes a breakdown (well one close to it, at least). At which each musician takes off into space not yet seen not Hot Dawg.
Another Reinhardt like tune. Thumping bass and rapid solos fill up this number nicely. Rice and Grisman do a fantastic job by commonly leading the song with great licks, credible lines, and fabulous solos. Tony Rice really manages to out do the rest though. He is definitely an outstanding guitarist and most likely one of the best around. “Neon Tetra” goes through numerous interesting tempo changes and possibly key changes as well.
A more upbeat, yet sad track. The song is rapid and rarely halts for anything, but it has a more sad vibe to it. It is of course instrumentally flawless and each musician featured plays his role perfectly. David Grisman throws various great solos out and Tony Rice does the same. His combination of Country guitar styling and Jazz influence present a very interesting sound. Not a highlight, but none the less a good song.
“Dawg-ola”, a song slightly similar to the previous track “Janice”. The band does do a great job of switching spotlight, from solo to solo, and so on. Buell Neidlinger does a fantastic job with the bass lines he produces. His rhythm work on long with the occasional Tony Rice back up section really keeps this jam steady. David of course produces many good lead lines, Rice does as well. It be nice to hear them perform a dual solo, but at this point on the album, it is more unlikely. Good song, nothing fantastic though, nor worthy of being labeled a highlight.
A credible exit! The song has a great feel to it; everything flows extraordinarily well. Darol Anger gives off a nice violin solo about mid way through, and from there David takes it. Grisman’s solo is needless to say fantastic and so is Rice’s, who follows Grisman’s. It is always interesting to see Tony Rice and David Grisman collaborate. For they are both two Bluegrass musicians who commonly dabble in Jazz music and fall under Grisman’s “Dawg” genre.