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SHORT-LIVED BLUEGRASS/"NEWGRASS" BAND
on February 18, 2014
Fans may know this box set includes the three individual albums that were released years ago. But if you're new to this band, this is (finally) all the material from The Boarding House recorded decades ago. I'd heard rumors for at least 10 years that a complete set was in the works, but I eventually gave up after nothing seemed to be happening. But here it is in all it's musical glory, and having the complete sets is a small revelation. Even the tunes that are here more than once in various sets have something special to offer fans.
The band; "Red" (Peter Rowan), "Dawg" (David Grisman), "Spud" (Jerry Garcia), "Mule" (John Kahn), and "Clem" (Vassar Clements), loved playing bluegrass music, something that's really evident with the complete sets. Having the tunes in order with complete sets gives a more organic feel, a certain flow, that's missing somewhat from the individual albums containing the various songs picked for those three original volumes. The 14 unissued tune are as good as the released stuff. Yes there's repetition, but if you like this kind of music that's no problem. Each disc has a few unissued tracks in the mix and being straight sets they fit in seamlessly.
With this complete set of concerts another piece of Jerry Garcia's musical intellect and love of music has been brought to life. The majority of the tracks have been released, so some fans will want to stick with the three volumes of Garcia's trip into bluegrass music which I understand. But for others, being able to hear Garcia and his friends playing the old tunes alongside "newer" songs, on acoustic instruments, the way the music should be played (and heard), is like getting a long lost present you thought you'd never receive.
The music and the performances are warm and intimate, and the unissued tracks are well worth hearing. Plus it's nice to hear everything in it's original order and in context, and for fans (like me) this is worth having. This documents a short period of time and only a few performances before the band splintered with everyone going their own way. But the music is great, and it's nice to finally have everything in one nice box set.
The discs slip into slots in the quad-foldout cardboard packaging. There's no booklet, just lists of the four sets, and a very short essay that has no new information that fans don't already know. There's several period b&w photos of the band members--that's it. A booklet would've been nice, but the music is the most important thing here, and at this late date (40 years on!) to have all the music from each set is great. Cheers.
Plus fans of NRPS might want to check out the soon to be released "Glendale Train" live set featuring the original band (Torbert, Dryden, Garcia, Dawson, and Nelson) playing a good relaxed set of music. The sound overall is okay/good but lacks a bit of depth. The booklet doesn't have much in the way of information, just a short essay on the band and the music. But this set is a good example of how this band sounded in the early days. Bottom line--if you liked the first album--you'll want to hear this live set.