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So Many Roads, Set 2: Guitarists’ Dead Picks

Last month we asked a number of guitarists to choose which song they’d perform if granted an opportunity to play on the road or in the studio with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. Below we offer another round of guitarist picks, drawn from both in and out of The Dead’s universe.

Adam Aijala (Yonder Mountain String Band):
I think I’d like to play on "Cumberland Blues" because it’s a great song on probably my favorite Dead studio album, Workingman’s Dead. I really like the country/folk edge of the entire album and especially the bluegrass feel of this song in particular (Jerry’s playing banjo). More importantly, the guitar playing is accessible to me and I feel that I could maybe do this song justice while other songs I’d leave to more competent guitar players.

Col. Bruce Hampton (Aquarium Rescue Unit/Codetalkers): Well, I don’t consider myself as a guitarist and don’t really know any of their tunes. I do know “Lovelight,” but that was first written by Bobby Bland and Joe Scott and I played it back it ’63—-first song I ever played.

David Gans:
This is like going to a world-class restaurant and having to choose soup OR the entree OR dessert! But my choice would be "Terrapin Station" because it has several of the key elements: it starts with a folk tale set to a beautiful tune, includes a sweet opening for improvisation and then transitions into one of Jerry’s most majestic and original compositions, all in service of some of Hunter’s most incandescent writing (adapting a great folk song in the first part, and from his own visionary universe in the rest). This is a song I play in my "solo electric" show, so I’m prepared to play it and sing it with the passion it deserves.

Ed McGee (ekoostik hookah/One Under):
I’d pick “Dark Star” because I’ve always thought it was lacking and weak—-kidding. But seriously, if we’re talking about redoing previously recorded songs, I’d pick “Estimated Prophet.” Always thought that song lent itself to studio approaches in a way others couldn’t. As for newer material, I’d pick “Banyan Tree.” Fantastic, creepy, groovy story song that could really develop well and put in 5.1. But, really, I have no business being in the studio with any of those mofos.

Fuzz (Deep Banana Blackout): I just participated in the tribute to Jerry Garcia at the Gathering of The Vibes along with The Zen Tricksters, The Dark Star Orchestra, Tom Constanten, Melvin Seals and others. We did "Easy Wind" and I sang and played it. I dig the tune a whole lot because it is simply a great blues… it makes me imagine I am ‘on the Bayou’ (as it is stated in the chorus). Seriously though, the real kicker for me is the way the feel alternates between the slow 6/8 and the 4/4 groove. The riffs really seem to wrap around that rhythm perfectly and it gives it a distinctive sound something that takes it out of the blues norm. There is also a great feel to open up with in the middle.

Jack Pearson (The Allman Brothers Band):
I’d like to do "Oh Glory How Happy I Am" by Gary Davis. I remember hearing them do another one of Rev. Gary Davis tunes before. Yeah— that would be great. Tell ‘em to come on —- let’s do it.

John Kadlecik (Dark Star Orchestra): “Terrapin Station.” I think that one covers a lot ground great melodies, different improvisational sections with different moods to them and great lyrics. You could probably say that about most of them, but for me, that’s the one

Keller Williams:
"Bird Song," "Scarlet>Fire," "Brown Eyed Woman," "Eyes of the World," "Jack Straw, "Stranger, "Help," "Slipknot," " "Franklin’s," "St. Steven," "The Eleven," "Candy Man," "High Time," "Black Peter," "Loser," "So Many Roads," "Dire Wolf," "‘Till the Morning Comes," "Looks Like Rain," "Box of Rain" because they are all wrapped up together to be my favorite Dead song that I know and I can play them blindfolded with one leg tied behind my back while hanging by the other leg upside down on acid.

Luke Reynolds (Blue Merle):
I would love to play on “Jack Straw.” The lyrics are just incredible. When I moved to Nashville, long before I joined Blue Merle, it was my dream to play with Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle or someone along those lines. “Jack Straw” really captures that vibe. I’d want to bring my entire arsenal of instruments ——guitar, pedal steel and keyboards—-out on that song and set up a little work station. That song combines everything I love about The Dead. It’s got the country influence, the rock influence and just great lyrics.

Mark Diomede (Juggling Suns/Solar Circus):
Well, for me, it would have to be “Dark Star.” Because for me that was the thing that hooked me. The first time I saw them I was 15 years old and in1973 and it was on Jerry’s birthday at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. They were performing Dark Star, it was a general admission show and I was about 10 feet from the stage, in front of Jerry. They were doing what I used to call at the time their Insect Jam.’ It was similar to some of the stuff that Phish really started doing later where they would do this atonal sounding music and it would reach a crescendo and then they would drop it back down. And they were about to reach the top of that crescendo, Jerry was just looking straight up at the stars, he was almost perpendicular, leaning back, and I said to myself, Man, I want to experience what that man is experiencing right now the bliss and the music.’ That to me is why I would choose Dark Star to play with those guys. That was the song and the moment that I knew I was going to play guitar for the rest of my life.

Nat Keefe (Hot Buttered Rum String Band):
First of all, while we’re dreaming here, I would much prefer a live performance with the Dead. Their records are good but the concerts are great. Some of my favorite concerts happened in the early 70s. They used to play an amazing "Second That Emotion." Laying into his solo, Garcia would leave a lot of space and let the counterpoint of Phil’s bass bubble up. In the music you can hear this youthful exuberance: "This is working! This is really working!" If I could channel a fraction of that energy for 15 minutes, I’d be a happy guy.

Marc Roberge (O.A.R):
This past spring we had the opportunity to actually back Bob Weir and Mickey Hart at a fundraiser for Senator Patrick Leahy in Washington DC. I was able to play guitar and sing on “Friend of the Devil.” What can I say? I remember enjoying this tune as a kid, and here I was playing it with Bob Weir."

Ryan Montbleau:
I would just run! I’d freak out. I don’t know if I could do it. Reid [Genauer] did Eyes of the World’ with Dark Star [at Gathering of the Vibes 2005], and I wouldn’t mind doing that one.

Samantha Stollenwerk (The Ritual): I would love to play on “Cassidy.” For one the song is close to my heart, since it was the first Dead song that really hooked me on them, so nostalgia plays a big part. The song was co-written by Bob Weir, so I identify with the rhythmic structure—-I am a rhythm player and write the main bulk of my own songs on the acoustic, and this is such a strong song when played on the acoustic guitar.

Steve Kimock: I’d like to play on "Crazy Fingers." I first encountered the tune as an instrumental big band arrangement. I was reading a chart, creating my own chord voicings and was just enchanted by the harmony. You can imagine my surprise when I heard the original version, what a great tune! I would probably wind up playing it on the Hawaiian guitar or ukulele.

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