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Published: 2006/03/11
by Eric Weeks

Melvin Seals’ JGB, Brookdale Lodge, Brookdale, CA- 3/3

Approaching the rustic Brookdale Lodge nestled high in the recently snow-covered Santa Cruz Mountains, anticipation of swirling organ solos and rock solid guitar lines abound. Perched in the center of a redwood forest, the Brookdale’s laidback atmosphere makes it a hidden jewel of a venue. This charming destination resort is complete with inexpensive onsite lodging, pancake house, and even a resident ghost.

The band got things cooking with the Dylan cover “Tough Mama” without the “meet me at the border late tonight” repetitive ending seen at previous dates. Melvin Seals has found a real star in guitarist Stu Allen. His eerily Jerry-like vocals and virtuosic guitar lines flow from his red Gibson MG reminiscent of a mid-70’s JGB show.

Next up the band eased into the first Garcia/Hunter tune of the night, “They Love Each Other”. This was followed by an organ-heavy rendition of the Motown favorite “Second That Emotion.” Both tunes featured long instrumental interludes and were good additions to an already solid first set. Still, the next tune, “Let it Rock,” may have been the highlight, as this barnburner melted any of the snow that had remained on windy Highway 9. One attendee commented that listening to this song was like “standing smack at the crossroads of blues and country.” The first set closed with a spirited version of Elvis Presley’s hit single Mystery Train’.

The second set featured JGB staples like “Valerie”, “Sisters and Brothers”, “Tangled Up in Blue” and the jazzy “Don’t Let Go”. But the real gem of the entire night was the monster ballad “Mission in the Rain”. Arguably one of Garcia/Hunter’s greatest collaborations. This tune was absolutely nailed by Allen. His guitar lines floating effortlessly from the stage and the vocal inflections-which seemed to peak at just the right moments, was worth the price of admission alone. “Some folks would be happy just to have one dream come true. But everything you gather is just more that you can lose.”

Melvin Seals seems to have struck gold in the person of Stu Allen. The group gained fans as one of the many under cards at the Jerry Garcia Tribute in September ’05. Melvin and his JGB have embarked on a mid-winter tour to spread the flame and melt some more of the winter snow that has blanketed much of the west.

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