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Published: 2001/06/19
by Ray Hogan

Solo Acoustic- David Gans

"Solo Acoustic" – David
Gans

Perfectible Recordings 03

My first experience with David Gans as a musician came at the original
"Deadhead Heaven: A Gathering of the Tribe" in 1996. He got up to jam with
moe., a band I knew little about at the time. I'll admit I was suspect of
Gans: not only did he have a Deadhead's dream job but also the access that
came with it. As for his being a musician, he must be opportunistic, I
thought.

All that changed when I got a copy of "Home By Morning" – a collaboration
between Gans and Eric Rawlins – a few years later. The disc was one of the
more heartfelt and honest releases of 1998. Only after interviewing Gans to
preview a New York-area show did I realize that songwriters such as Elton
John and Gram Parsons were major influences before the Grateful Dead entered
his cultural radar.

As a solo artist, Gans pulls as much from the singer-songwriters of the
1970sas he does from the band that's helped provide his livelihood for more than
a decade.

Simply put, "Solo Acoustic" is a fine disc. Playing alone and unplugged
can be a dangerous scenario for even the most seasoned pro but Gans – who
only began gigging regularly again three years ago – pulls it off with a
master's touch and confidence. Not even after repeated listens did I find
myself wishing for additional instrumentation or voices.

Gans' singing is both inviting and confident. Such warmth is rare and among
the reasons why so many singer-songwriters make better songwriters than
singers. He strums in such a full-bodied manner that it becomes easy to
forget that there are only six strings at work. With the exception of the
opening Ask Your Dog > I Bid You Goodnight, which examines some
outer-reaches, Gans sticks to the role of the troubadour rather than the
psychedelic journeyman.

The song selection here is a healthy mix of originals, Dead classics
(Brokedown Palace, Lady With a Fan > Terrapin Station and
Black Peter) and choice covers by artists like Gram Parsons (the wonderful Return of the Grievous Angel) and Gillian Welch (Tear My Stillhouse Down). He conveys
the same love toward the Parsons and Welch tunes as he does the
Garcia/Hunter compositions.

Perhaps most striking are the originals, which hold their own against the
tried-and-true outside material. Gans isn't lyrically shy either. Who
Killed Uncle John? is a brazen look at Deadhead culture ("It wasn't me who
stopped his heart/I served the man who served his art" is the refrain). An
American Family is an all too sober look at modern socio-economics. "Twenty years after graduation/ I'm still searching for my groove/and an
outlet for my skills/when the economy improves," he sings.

Not everything is so heavy though. Down to Eugene, a collaboration
with Jim Page, is a vivid recollection of the excitement that went into preparing and
traveling to a Grateful Dead – the lyrics are amazingly true to form – and
Shut Up and Listen is a – possibly unknowingly – comical rant
courtesy of Robert Hunter.

"Solo Acoustic" is a great second disc from Gans. It's also proof that
there's much more ahead for him should the radio and producer gigs ever dry up.

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