Satisfied – John Sebastian and David Grisman
Acoustic Disc 47
This disc provides a chance to catch up with a figure I always sort of liked. Most people intrigued by the rootsier side of jamband music will have kept close tabs on David Grisman, but unless you’ve turned on oldies radio or watched Woodstock recently, it’s not too likely that you’ve heard much from John Sebastian in recent years.
As the two musicians remind us in their liner notes, Sebastian and Grisman made their recording debut together in the early '60s as part of the Even Dozen Jug Band. However, they quickly headed in separate directions, with Grisman following his acoustic path right off the major label track, while Sebastian formed the Lovin’ Spoonful and made the most of the brief era when it was possible for such a smiley, nerdy type to make great rock and roll.
Now the two are together again, on Grisman’s label and on Grisman’s acoustic, overdub-free terms. This stretches Sebastian, but also leads to problems. At times, the front-porch pickin’ is too leisurely for its own good. “Walk Right Back” laid on the nostalgic sweetness a bit thick even in the Everlys vocal version, and does so even more in Grisman and Sebastian’s instrumental incarnation. A few Sebastian tunes like “It’s Not Time Now” and “Coconut Grove” move into more complex singer-songwriter emotions, and more along those lines would have been nice.
Still, Sebastian’s delivery (think of John Hurt, who’s the source of two songs, or an uncynical Randy Newman) hits the charm button enough to get by. And with Sebastian on rhythm guitar except when he hauls out his harmonica, there’s plenty of chances to hear Grisman’s mandolin solos, and his expressive bends and spidery phrases will make one understand what Jerry Garcia saw in him.
Satisfied is a bit like having dinner with that uncle you never saw much but who always got you nice Christmas presents when you were young. It won’t chance your day-to-day, but it’s a chance to hear from a guy who made good in a bygone era.