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!


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
gratefaldean's picture
Joined: Jun 22 2007

Cardboard is fine, jewel cases not so good in my opinion (just imagine jewel cases for vinyl LPs). It was very odd to see nothing printed on the spines, though. Here's hoping that it was a mistake and not a trend -- I have a hard enough time figuring out what's where without having to pull out CDs to check the front or back cover to see what they are.

Joined: Apr 4 2008
Regarding Packaging

I can handle the cardboard CD cases, the plastic jewelboxes are a thing of the past, it seems. However, I agree that the spines should have the titles on them. But the worse thing to me is the format of Sandy's producer's notes and Silberman's history of the JGAB. Those folding accordian notes are a major pain to read, just as they were in the Warlocks box set. Both the production notes and Silberman's long essay (as are Blair's in the Warlocks box) deserve to be in booklet form. All were quite informative and contain information and photos that enhance listening to the music. I'm probably not alone in those who sometimes wish to go back and refer to the information and opinions expressed in them. These things took time, effort and research to write and deserve better treatment.

Having said that, it's GREAT to have this new addition to the Garcia canon of released acoustic music. While there has been some who have commented on the sound quality, one has to consider the source tapes, which are two-track and cannot be sonically manipulated. It's big fun to have this stuff to enjoy. It's clear that the band enjoyed playing it, too. Thanks to Sandy Rothman and the Garcia Estate for getting this out for all of us to enjoy.

Joined: Sep 18 2007
Cheap Packaging

First, let me say that I'm excited about the music contained in this release, which came in the mail today. I love ALL acoustic Jerry and haven't owned Almost Acoustic since I had it on cassette long ago.

That said, the packaging is a joke and not appropriate for a $14 CD. The bundle is basically two flimsy cardboard sleeves with a cardboard backing that will immediately end up in the recycling bin. There isn't even any print on the spines of the cd cases, so they will sit as anonymous discs upon the shelf. Anal? Probably, but we're collectors who care about appearance.

Come on, Rhino, or whoever makes these decisions! With all of the work that David, Jeffrey, Blair, et. al. put into these releases, the least you can do is spend a little more dough to make them look nice! Here's hoping that future Jerry releases will be presented with the same aesthetic sense as Road Trips and other GD vault releases.

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

Joined: Aug 18 2007
Ragged vs Lunt "Best of Rest"

The dates are listed for the "Ragged" CD in the booklet that comes with "Almost" (oddly enough). Here are the track dates for Lunt's "Best of the rest". It appears the only overlapping song is "Good Night Irene".

The tracks on this release are from the following shows.
Disc 1;

I'll Take A Melody - October 19, 1987
Forever Young - October 30, 1987
Think - October 24, 1987
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - October 21, 1987
Simple Twist Of Fate - October 24, 1987
When I Paint My Masterpiece - October 25, 1987 (Late)
Deal - October 25, 1987 (Late)
All Along The Watchtower - October 25, 1987 (Late)
Disc 2;
Get Out Of My Life Woman - October 21, 1987 (Late)
Like A Road - October 24, 1987
Mission In The Rain - October 23, 1987
Mississippi Moon - October 23, 1987
Evangeline - October 21, 1987 (Late)
That Lucky Old Sun - October 24, 1987
And It Stoned Me - October 25, 1987 (Early)
Tangled Up In Blue - October 25, 1987 (Early)
Disc 3;
Rosa Lee McFall - October 25, 1987 (Early)
Drifting With The Tide - October 25, 1987 (Early)
I'm Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail - October 28, 1987 (Early)
Drifting Too Far From The Shore - October 28, 1987 (Early)
I Ain't Never - October 30, 1987
It's A Long Long Way (To The Top Of The World) - October 30, 1987
Ashes Of Love (Rehearsal: date not known)
Poison Love (Rehearsal: date not known)
I'm Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail (Rehearsal: date not known)

Hope this helps. My opinion is that the sound quality of these two new releases is similar to the "Lunts". I am quite pleased with all of them.

Joined: Feb 24 2009
sylverhare75, what do you

sylverhare75, what do you mean about Ripple? It's not on my copy of this CD!

Joined: Feb 24 2009
Poor quality

"The price on Amazon for the Almost Acoustic cd is out of this world!"

Not sure what you mean. Looks pretty reasonable to me: $13 new, some used for cheaper. A few idiots trying to sell them for big bucks but ignore those fools.

Anyway, just got this release today. I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed at the sound quality. Sounds like an audience recording almost. Some instruments are hardly discernible. The rhythm section is virtually non-existent.

Len's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007

I would be very grateful if someone who has this release could post the dates of the tracks please. Yours gratefully. Len

Joined: Nov 14 2009
corrections... Spike drivers blues.. oh the wind and rain..

i did not quite have the names correct...and i forgot.... RIPPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! excellent closer....

Joined: Nov 14 2009
Almost Acoustic...

I have this CD.. had it for some time now... my fave tracks... 4 and 8.. my daughter loves 7... Steel Driving Blues... Dreadful Wind and Rain... TRouble {i think}... great disc all the way thru also... i have to say it is a must have....

Joined: Nov 16 2010

CD's just delivered by UPS. Listening to Ragged But Right and it sounds sweet. It looks like just 1 song(Goodnight Irene 10/31/87) and the Band Introductions(Calling Your Bosses) are repeated from the Pure Jerry releases. Liner notes include recording dates for both discs. Getting ready to read the essay now. Enjoy!


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.