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Published: 2008/07/22
by Randy Ray

REX (Live at the Fillmore): A Grateful Grass Performance – Keller Williams

Sci Fidelity

Getting spun takes on a whole different meaning with the new Keller Williams live release, a benefit performance for the Rex Foundation, the Grateful Deads non-profit charitable group. On February 8th, 2006 at the Fillmore in Denver, Colorado, Williams teamed up with Jeff Austin from the Yonder Mountain String Band, and Jeff Moseley from the String Cheese Incident to plow through some Dead chestnuts, bluegrass style. They also managed to add their own unique interpretations in numerous passages.

Grateful Grass, as the heady pickin troubadours are called, select 11 cuts from that evening, which also featured original material from the three artists, none of which is included in the release. The trio finds occasional gold in these Dead warhorses without mimicking any of Jerry Garcia or Bob Weir’s trademarked moves. The chosen cuts are dominated by Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tunes, but that seems appropriate due to that duos distinctive jugband/bluegrass/folk pedigree.

Indeed, if anything, these boys should be called Somewhat New & On the Way, as Williams spins new magic around old lyrics, sometimes chopping off words, other times placing the emphasis on a different syllable ala Dylan where new translations yield fresh definitionsMississippi Half Step is a moody confessional, Candyman, a jaunty character study, and Black Peter is a taut period piece with a timeless tale about another classic world-weary warrior as sketched by Hunter. Austin attacks his vocals with confident swaggerLoose Lucy is tossed out like a ballsy blues number from a smoky downtown bar. Call and response vocals from Williams and Moseley work well on this bawdy tune, too. Moseley also delivers vocals on Casey Jones, charging down the tracks neath the Fillmore’s purple chandeliers after a witty Let Keith sing! request.

And lest we forget that the pickin is the real thang in these types of fare-thee-well hoedowns, the playing on these numbers is vigorous, exciting, and well just plain fun. The tunes reach the Dead _de rigueur_X factor on such time-honored terrain like Bird Song, which contains a mesmerizing breakdown that sacrifices neither momentum, mood nor the memory of live Dead versions, and the surprisingly effective jamgrass reading of Scarlet Begonias > Fire in the Mountain — an electric Dead second set staple that is given a very nice new spin in the Grateful Grass machine. Overall, the ghost of Garcia and their legions of new and aging ‘heads should be dead chuffed with Williams’ latest release as his talented grass-y trio proves once again that its all about the tunes, manand boy dont they seem to hold up quite well?

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