The word “pioneer” is tossed around far too often. So-and-so pioneered the post-industrial-folk genre. Some other guy pioneered the playing-guitar-like-violin technique. Heh? If anyone has earned the title though, it’s Jesse McReynolds. This 81-year old mandolin player has been performing bluegrass for decades. He’s won just about every award there is to win and is currently performing his 45th year in the Grand Ole Opry.
McReynolds still tours and still releases albums. His latest is titled simply Songs of the Grateful Dead: A Tribute to Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter. It contains twelve Dead songs both famous and obscure, transformed into mandolin-picked bluegrass. David Nelson and Stu Allen, both veterans of Jerry Garcia’s non-Dead bands join in, but McReynolds has an even bigger card up his sleeve: Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who wrote final track “Day By Day” with McReynolds.