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.
“Jesse’s singing voice is like a long-lost brother voice between Jerry Garcia and David Nelson,” Hunter wrote. “Everyone who knows their work and is fortunate enough to hear this record will know what I mean. What a trio you’d all have made! The singing is steady and strong. Jerry would approve, I’m certain.”
The opening track, “Black Muddy River,” sets the tone beautifully. Stately picking and tender vocals evoke a quiet mountain mood for the In the Dark standout. Cover Me gives you a first listen below.
Songs of the Grateful Dead: A Tribute to Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter Tracklist:
01. Black Muddy River
03. The Wheel
04. Bird Song
05. Franklin’s Tower
06. Standing on the Moon
08. Fire on the Mountain
09. Stella Blue
10. Deep Elem Blues
12. Alabama Getaway
13. Day By Day