We’ve written a good bit recently about Chris Thile, and his return, if not necessarily to bluegrass, at least to recording and performing within the structure of a bluegrass ensemble. It seems somehow appropriate in this setting to highlight two new recordings from David Grisman, an artist with some interesting parallels to the young Mr. Thile, and without whose contributions what Thile does musically is not likely to have progressed as it has.
Like Thile, Grisman was drawn to bluegrass music – and the mandolin – a very young age. Similarly, he developed a new sub-genre of more experimental string music that managed to draw in new fans, while also repelling others.
I well recall my first hearing of the debut recording from The David Grisman Quintet when it was released thirty years ago. It was a bit like my hearing JD Crowe’s “Old Home Place” Album (Rounder 0044) around the same time. I knew that the music I was new, powerful, and likely to have a far-reaching impact.
And so it has proven to be.
Grisman has chosen to celebrate this 30 year anniversary of the introduction of Dawg Music, as his early fans dubbed his new jazz-inflected string band style in the mid-1970s, with two new releases. Both will be released on his own label, Acoustic Disc, on October 3, and together they showcase his appreciation and passion for both traditional bluegrass and more adventurous acoustic string music.
We made a brief mention of DGBX, the CD from The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, back in July. At the time, Brance simply saw a notice about the CD online, and neither of us had heard it. The group has served as Grisman’s outlet for bluegrass, and has performed sporadically over the past few years in the Bay Area of California, where the various members reside.
The group is composed of Grisman on mandolin, Keith Little on banjo, Jim Nunally on guitar, Chad Manning on fiddle, and Samson Grisman (David’s son) on bass. Folks who know Grisman’s music primarily from his jazzy work with his Quintet may be surprised by the sparse, very traditional, and sometimes almost pre-bluegrass sound of this recording.
The song choices include some bluegrass standards straight from Lester & Earl (Reuben, Down The Road), The Stanleys (Are You Afraid To Die, Dream Of The Miner’s Child), plus several that pre-date what most consider bluegrass. The Carter Family’s Engine 143 and Charlie Poole’s Baltimore Fire, plus a version of The Monroe Brothers’ I’m Rollin On, might all fall into that category.
Grisman also re-cut two of his signature songs, the jam-grass classic Old and In The Way, plus Dawgy Mountain Breakdown, familiar as the opening theme of the popular radio program, Car Talk.
Throughout, the music is performed in an understated manner, and the serious, studied appreciation these players have for the many musical forms that contributed to Monroe’s fusion of them into what became known as bluegrass music is clearly evident.
Also set for a 10/3 release is Dawg’s Groove, from the current iteration of the David Grsiman Quintet. Members include Jim Kerwin on bass, George Marsh on drums, Enrique Coria on guitar, Matt Eakle on flute and Grisman on mandolin.
The material is, as it usually is from DGQ, primarily composed by the members of the group. There is a fairly wide range of moods and styles on this CD, incorporating strong Celtic, jazz, bop, latin, swing and blues influences.
In keeping with Acoustic Disc’s reputation for audiophile recordings, Dawg’s Groove was recorded live, using an analog 2 track tape machine.