The Garcia Project – ‘Spirit – A Loving Tribute to Jerry Garcia and the Spiritual Songs He Performed’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

It’s a measure of the profound influence Jerry Garcia continues to wield that contemporary musicians remain so inclined to exhibit the results of his inspiration. And such displays, like The Garcia Project’s Spirit,  manifest much the same range of style(s) the man himself explored over the course of his multi-faceted career within the Grateful Dead, leading the Jerry Garcia Band and various other collaborative endeavors.

Originally conceived to replicate classic JGB setlists, here The Garcia Project has chosen to home in on a specific aspect of the man’s diverse oeuvre with this recording. Yet no more than a setlist tells the whole story of a given performance, this album’s subtitle doesn’t say it all either: A Loving Tribute to Jerry Garcia and the Spiritual Songs He Performed features any number of notable names, but even more importantly, the roster of participants brings unerring authenticity and empathy to a selection of traditional and original gospel-oriented material. In the latter category reside Dorothy Love Coates’ “I’ll Be With Thee” and “Strange Man” right alongside the Garcia/Robert Hunter authored “Gomorrah.” 

Another longstanding entries in the JGB repertoire, “Sisters And Brothers” is similarly familiar, but as on the prior number, this corps of singers and players imbue their performance with a tenderness that corresponds to the attention to detail in arrangement. And there’s also a deeply-felt passion permeating Spirit: aiding and abetting the core ensemble including Project stalwarts Mik Bondy on guitar and vocals, plus harmony singer Kat Walkerson, this project’s producer, Maria Muldaur, steps up to sing on the former, while former JGB member Jacklyn LaBranch testifies with abandon on the latter.

Both contributions are as fervent in their own way as multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby’s deft touches of color throughout the record. His use of various keyboards includes the Hammond B3 organ on “Who Was John” (dedicated to long-time Garcia sideman Kahn), Wurlitzer electric piano on “I Hope It Won’t Be This Way, Always,” plus some elegant grand piano for “The Magnificent Sanctuary Band.” And the man who’s worked with the disparate likes of Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi and Dave Matthews also decorates “Palm Sunday” with a delicate fiddle.

That instrument finds its acoustic corollary in the guitar of Peter Rowan on “Drifting Too Far From Shore.” And the co-founder of Old & In The Way (with David Grisman and Garcia) proffers a voice of vulnerability quite comparable to his late lamented bandmate’s there and during “Throw Out the Lifeline.” By the time that latter cut appears, it’s become evident how clearly recorded and mixed are all these twelve cuts: engineers Ari Rios, Erin Tadena and Joel Jaffee deserve recognition for expertise comparable to that of these performers. Jerry Garcia would no doubt be moved to hear their collective efforts on …The Spiritual Songs He Performed, so much so he’d probably want to participate himself?!


Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide