Grateful Dead

Something Old, Something New from the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band

By Blair Jackson

Something Old, Something New from the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band

The much-loved Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band had a relatively brief life—fewer than 30 shows from the summer of ’87 to the summer of ’88—but in that time they made an indelible impression on every person who encountered their warm and inviting blend of folk, old-time country, blues and bluegrass music. The roots of the group went back to the early ’60s, when Garcia, David Nelson and Sandy Rothman were all part of the Bay Area folk scene; indeed, the three of them played together in a group called the Black Mountain Boys in 1964. When Garcia slipped into a coma and nearly died in 1986, Nelson and Rothman were among the old friends who helped Jerry get his chops back in the weeks following his release from the hospital. They reconnected on many levels—including musically—and that led to the decision in 1987 to put together a small group (they added John Kahn on standup bass) and play some gigs. Beginning in mid-October ’87 the newly dubbed Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band played 18 shows at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, sharing the bill with the (electric) Jerry Garcia Band. David Kemper from the JGB added some percussion to the mix, and a few shows into the Broadway run, fiddler Kenny Kosek was added to the line-up. A month after the Broadway triumph, the full JGAB played three shows each at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco and the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

It was a selection of highlights from those California shows, chosen by Sandy Rothman and approved by Garcia, that became the JGAB’s acclaimed album, Almost Acoustic, which was released in 1988, but has long been out of print… that is, until NOW! That’s right, by popular demand, a newly re-mastered version of the JGAB’s classic album is available once again! As most of you know, the album offers an exceptional mixture of tunes popularized by the likes of Jimmie Rodgers, the Stanley Brothers, Tex Logan, the Blue Sky Boys, Mississippi John Hurt and others. Among the many faves: “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Deep Elem Blues,” “Oh, the Wind and Rain,” “Spike Driver Blues,” “Gone Home,” “Standin’ on the Corner (Blue Yodel #9),” “I’m Troubled,” “Ripple,” and six others.

That’s great news, of course, but are you aware of the fact that many years ago, with Garcia’s blessing, Sandy Rothman assembled a second disc of 14 other tunes plucked from the group’s Broadway run and subsequent shows at the Wiltern? Why it never came out is mysterious, but now, with some additional recent tweaking by Sandy, comes Ragged But Right a warm and wonderful companion disc that will slide comfortably in your CD rack next to Almost Acoustic. Songs include: “Ragged But Right,” “Short Life of Trouble,” “I Ain’t Never,” “Trouble in Mind,” “Drifting With the Tide,” “Rosa Lee McFall,” “Two Soldiers,” “If I Lose,” “Bright Morning Star,” “Goodnight Irene,” “It’s A Long, Long Way to the Top of the World,” “Drifting Too Far From the Shore” and “Turtle Dove.” The harmonies soar, the playing is impeccable—man, that was a good band!

These two fine Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band releases — Almost Acoustic and Ragged But Right - can be purchased individually or together in an exclusive bundle - JGAB: Complete Repertoire - that includes a fascinating 3,000 word historical essay about Garcia’s love of string band music and the JGAB written by Steve Silberman. For more information, you know the drill: click here!


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Joined: Nov 30 2009
Why get the SS when one

Why get the SS when one already has it? It's remastered, and I've noticed many older CDs play at somewhat lower volume than newer CDs (makes a diff on portable music player).

Was never impressed with sound on Lunt-Font Pure Jerry releases (makes them idificult to listen to), HOWEVER, "RAGGED BUT RIGHT" DEFINITELY SOUNDS BETTER to my ears. It is closer in sound to AA than to the PJ Lunt-Font releases.

I consider AA and RBR to be vol. 1 and vol. 2 of JGAB, and I consider the 2 PJ Lunt-Font shows as definitely more of a sort of memento or souvenir of the Broadway run. The 2 PJs sound almost unlistenable to me, but RBR and AA are EXCELLENT IMNSHO!

Joined: Sep 19 2007

i want to thank all for this new release. i've loved almost acoustic for years, but i like ragged more. true, it could be just that i'm so familiar w aa, but i really think i like the song selection on ragged better, but mostly its more like a concert, with the warm feel of chatting with the audience, etc. if you dont have the jerry/john acoustic cd and you like this, get it! i just love any jerry acoustic i can get...what can i say!

Joined: Jun 7 2007
No title on spine

Found my acoustic discs + Road Trips package waiting for me and yes, there's no writing on the spines of the acoustic discs. How odd. The packaging is very flimsy. With a bit more effort (and cost) the packing could have been much sturdier, e.g. the Pure Jerry Kahn/Garcia release with the plastic tray inside. I'd be happy to pay an extra $5 per release for that. Of course, these were very cheap and it's pretty great to get this music at such a good price.

I suppose I really should reserve my judgment until I actually listen to them.

gratefaldean's picture
Joined: Jun 22 2007
So some of us

Have something printed on the spines of the individual cds, and others don't? Hmm...does that make the ones without printing worth gazillions on EBay? Nahhhh...

cosmicbadger's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
what a treat

Arrived in good order, with Almost Acoustic playing now and sounding fine. Lost my old copy years ago and it's like meeting an old friend. Looking forward to Ragged but Right.

As for packaging. Each disk is in its own cardboard gatefold sleeve with title on the spine. Each had its own gatefold paper insert with Producers' notes and track notes. A bit cheap but just about OK.

I am mystified about the concertina notes and blank spines mentioned elswhere. Does that mean the obsessive collectors have to seek out versions with different packaging?

Joined: Sep 19 2007
liner notes

in my almost is where the songs are discussed, in the ragged cd, where the cd is housed, is where the notes by silberman are...

stone jack baller's picture
Joined: Jun 8 2007
Ragged But Right CD

Just got mine in the mail....CD package had writing on the spine.

But, I see there's supposed to be an essay by Steve Silberman...that wasn't included in the pakage I got.

Anyone else with a similar problem?

How was the essay provided? Similar to the insert for Sandy Rothman's notes?

Thanks, Folks

Joined: Sep 18 2007

I've actually got no problem with cardboard, just with the flimsiness and lack of aesthetic appeal of these releases. Road Trips packaging is sturdy and beautifully put together, but still cardboard. Just my opinion; I don't mean to be a whiner.

Jeff VanderVeen
"May the 4 winds blow you safely home."

Gr8fulTed's picture
Joined: Jul 9 2007
Great music

Thanks for the Jerry bluegrass: it is very enjoyable. Paperboard cases work fine with me. It was a bit strange to find the song date info for Ragged inside the cd case for Acoustic.

Joined: Jun 6 2007

That's the first I'd heard of that. Haven't actually gotten my copy yet. (Guess you have know somebody around here!) I hate not having spine info, too! That's tough about all the Bonus Discs I have, too...


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