It’s a Hand-Me-Down
Reviewed by Nicholas Meriwether
Former Grateful Dead Archivist, UC Santa Cruz
Deadheads have heard their favorite band’s songs covered by a wide range of other musicians, from cover bands to artists as diverse as Jane’s Addiction and Patti Smith.
David Gans has long been an accomplished performer of the Grateful Dead’s songbook, and It’s A Hand-Me-Down gathers thirteen of his most inspired performances in a beautifully sequenced release that will delight old friends and new fans alike.
From impassioned electric takes to soulful acoustic impressions, Gans draws out subtle nuances and plumbs hidden depths in even the most familiar chestnuts, proving that the Dead’s music remains a vital wellspring for inspiration, innovation and improvisation.
More than a cover album or even a tribute, It’s A Hand-Me-Down is a heartfelt interpretation that shines new light on a living musical tradition, one that will continue to inspire musicians and reward listeners for years to come.
The Ones That Look The Weirdest Taste the Best
Reviewed by Dennis Cook, Jambase
Though the title suggests Captain Beefheartian oddity, this is in fact a very lovely, fairly pure folk-rock album, and perhaps David Gans finest recorded hour to date. A longtime staple of the Grateful Dead world through his internationally known radio program, Dead To The World, Gans has quietly grown & grown as a singer-songwriter in his own right, and his latest collection elevates him to the stature of John Gorka, David Wilcox and Greg Brown in the modern folk pantheon.
Beautifully produced by Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), there’s great warmth and invitation to The Ones That Look The Weirdest Taste The Best (released December 16, 2008 on Perfectible Recordings). “Headin’ Home Already” is something I can easily imagine Garcia diggin’ into with an oversized spoon. “Echolalia” could be the best Michael Hedges instrumental you’ve never heard, and “An American Family” and the monotheist-bashing “Save Us from the Saved” carry the sincere gravitas and homespun honesty of primo Pete Seeger. Gans really holds his own throughout, and it’s not all folksy wisdom either. “Autumn Day” and “Like A Dog” in the last third rollick playfully and suggest there’s a fine road band with Gans and Carbone to be had. Besides, great playing from Gans and Carbone, the album also features guest turns from RRE’s John Skehan III (mandolin & more) and Andy Goessling (banjo, ukelele and much more) as well as ex-Hot Buttered Rum mandolinist Zac Matthews. Carbone integrates everything in a way that vibes strongly with Workingman’s Dead and other ’70s California Country gems. The end result is something you’re likely to find yourself throwing on with great regularity.
In every aspect, this is a very personable, humanizing collection, where Gans offers his strongest voice (literally and figuratively). It’s to be hoped that those who know him only through his championing (and terrific insight about) The Dead will venture further into this modern gyspy’s work, and The Ones That Look The Weirdest Taste The Best is absolutely the best jumping on point yet.