Jerry Garcia & David Grisman
[The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
First Appeared at The Music Box, December 2001, Volume 8, #12
Written by John Metzger
Grateful Dawg, the new PBS-style feature-length documentary by Gillian Grisman, chronicles the relationship between her father David and Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. By interspersing interviews with performance footage, the documentary traces the duo's connection from their early bluegrass collaborations in the 1960s through their prolific reunion in the 1990s. Naturally, the film contains plenty of musical highlights, which were compiled for the requisite companion soundtrack disc.
Unfortunately, Grateful Dawg suffers from the fate of most compilations. That is: Much of the material was previously available in more cohesive formats. Surely any fan of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman already has the playful Jenny Jenkins and the plaintive The Thrill Is Gone, which were merely remixed for this compilation. And anyone with a passing interest in bluegrass and early folk music probably has Bill Monroe's rendition of Wayfaring Stranger, Old and In The Way's cover of Pig in a Pen, and Ewan MacColl's Off to Sea Once More. Even the live rendition of Friend of the Devil — superb as it is — adds little to the previously available studio take by the duo.
On the other hand, the film brought to light a handful of live performances -- recorded at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre and Mill Valley's legendary Sweetwater -- for which many, no doubt, will clamor. Yet, these too tend to lack the sort of connection necessary for both holding the disc together and capturing the flow (as well as the jam-oriented aspect) of Garcia and Grisman's performances. It's not that the duo doesn't improvise. They, along with Jim Kerwin and Joe Craven, deliver some truly heady trips, most notably on the expansive Arabia. But a concert is more than just a series of songs — it's a story — sometimes explicit, and sometimes not — that is woven together to make a statement. Chopping a performance into singular bits never fares well on a grander scheme. Consequently, 75 minutes just doesn't do justice to the volumes of exquisite music that Garcia and Grisman made, and the Grateful Dawg soundtrack merely makes a good sampler for the uninitiated not interested in delving any deeper.
Grateful Dawg: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is
available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box