Jam band superstar Oteil Burbridge is a leader at forefront of the movement, and has been for many years, including a storied run in the Allman Brother Band as their longest-standing bassist. He has also been a key member of huge recording and touring bands, including the recently-departed Dead and Company. and led his own Oteil and Friends outfits. He has now announced his new project: The songs of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, reinterpreted by him and performed by his own chosen musicians.
It was a theme, approaching a meme, for fans to demand that his bands “Let Oteil Sing.” This project also allows him to do that. The first single from the album is “Stella Blue”, which is timely as the train comes for his time in Dead and Co. The album is due out in September.
Burbridge leads with his tender voice, soul infusing every one of Hunter’s words. The sense of current and impending loss is there throughout. One element is a unique sense of time and place. When John Martyn recorded his remarkable, reflective One World album with an all-star cast of collaborators, he recorded some songs outside in the early hours, adding reverb from the surroundings and sounds from nature. These added mood and a sense place.
For Oteil, the setting is Iceland. The ambient sounds of life are absorbed by the snow outside and the wooden construction of the studio. This leaves only the song, the singer, and the players. And perhaps a silent infusion of fireworks from the aurora borealis. There is a beautiful guitar solo and a flourish at the end from Oteil’s six-string bass. Oteil has a long history with the song, and he makes small modifications to the structure, with love and care. He makes the song his own, but pays tribute to Garcia and Hunter.