Phil Lesh & Friends Go Greene

 
Phil would load me down with a waist high stack of songs from the archives and just say, 'Find ones that you really like.' I was never a Deadhead and I'm kinda turning into one now because I've gotten to discover all this music that I never knew.

-Jackie Greene

 
Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Phil Lesh & Friends by Jay Blakesberg
Recently Greene released an EP entitled Small Tempest with his own band and a record with a band called The Skinny Singers. "The Skinny Singers is myself and my friend Tim Bluhm, who is the lead singer of a rock band called The Mother Hips. We've been friends for a while and we decided that we'd get together and form our own acoustic duo. It's turned out to be more than just an acoustic thing and is now just about songs we've written together," says Greene. "It started off as a fun thing for us because I am seen as the serious guy in my band and he is in his, as well. The Skinny Singers is kinda a goof that is fun and isn't supposed to be taken too seriously. We really tried to make a record that just two people could do. It's not chock full of instrumentation. It's just the best it could be and the biggest it could sound with just two people doing it."

In mid-September, The Skinny Singers played a four show CD release run that was highlighted by Phil Lesh joining the band at The Independent (read the review here). When Lesh took the stage he jokingly remarked, "I hope I am skinny enough to belong to this band." The group ran through Greene's original "Gone Wanderin'" before closing out the show with The Dead classics "Friend of the Devil," "Ripple" and "Sugaree" to the delight of the intimate crowd.

Lesh & Greene by Jay Blakesberg
The sit-in came on the heels of Phil and Friends rehearsals for the fall tour, where Greene said things went very well and seemed easier than he had imagined they would. "I guess Phil must have noticed that my vocal range is almost identical to Jerry's. We don't have to change the keys or anything; it's just natural for me to sing in that register," Greene says. "I like a lot of the uptempo songs like 'Bertha' and 'Deal,' and I really like to sing the bluesy songs like 'Speedway' because I can just growl on it and play harmonica. It is just such a great song."

In addition to focusing on the extensive Grateful Dead catalog, the band is breaking out several of Greene's originals and a slew of new covers. "I'm letting Phil decide what songs of mine we are going play," Greene says. "He's picking tons of them, so we might be doing up to four or five a night, and it seems great because they fit right in."

Another surprise for this tour is the addition of an acoustic set in select locations. "Jackie's music and his playing really lend themselves to playing acoustically," Lesh says. While he only confirmed that the band would be playing the stripped down third set at Red Rocks, there is much speculation that the band will break out the acoustic instruments for at least one more show on the tour. "It was an idea that we came up with because of the album Reckoning, and I just thought it would be such a great vibe to do a set like that on our tour," says Greene. "Everybody was stoked on the idea, and I'm glad because I think a lot of The Dead songs work very well like that."

Like Reckoning, Lesh's recorded output for the past 20 years has mostly been confined to concert recordings with one notable exception. In 2002, at the height of "The Q," Lesh decided the energy in the group was right to put some songs on tape. He led the group into the studio where they recorded the songs that were released as There and Back Again. The record featured several songs written by Lesh and longtime Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, as well as tracks composed by Warren Haynes and other band members. While There and Back Again is Lesh's only studio recording since The Grateful Dead's Built To Last came out in 1989, he did hint that maybe this new lineup would enter the studio together.

Phil Lesh by Jay Blakesberg
"A new album isn't out of the question," he says. "I haven't made any definite plans, but we already worked together in the studio with this lineup, minus Steve [Molitz], on the TV project and it was very, very successful. We were able to do some really interesting work in a very short time. What it really depends on is how much new, original, material we can come up with between us."

Whether or not they record an album, it will be exciting to watch this diverse group of musicians grow together as a band. As they learn more about each other's playing styles the quality of the improvisation and the overall sound is sure to skyrocket.

"The potential of this particular band is absolutely immense," says Lesh. "Everybody has such great little ideas that they can stick in there. Nobody seems reticent or reluctant to put ideas out, even in the body of the song, which I really like because it gives the song itself a whole new interpretation."

With the TV project in the works and a tour with a new band underway, Lesh is proving that he is an anomaly in many ways. At 67, he is still striving to grow and develop as a musician and a person. He consciously brought Molitz and Greene into the band because "the kind of energy that Steve and Jackie bring to the band is so fresh and so exciting that the rest of us old guys kinda gotta get jacked up to that level," he says. "It makes us play differently and that's really what I am after with the band. I want to be inspired to play outside of my comfort zone and outside of the box that I have always been in with The Grateful Dead."

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[Published on: 10/18/07]

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Comments

crusoe starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/18/2007 08:39PM
+7 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Saw Phil at the Echo Project. The sets were fantastic. Jackie Greene just blew me away. I highly recommend seeing these guys if you get the chance.

moecheeseplease Thu 10/18/2007 08:49PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

moecheeseplease

sounds really tight but what about larry campbell? he is awesome. saw him with levon helm at the midnight rambles he has. so good.

sanfranajax starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 03:01AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Just listened to their smokin' Red Rocks show. Greene is the real deal. He's doing to Phil and Friends what Herring did to Panic.

Deadphishbiscuits Fri 10/19/2007 05:18AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Deadphishbiscuits

MIssed Phil last night in buffalo but hittin up the cuse on sunday, cant wait to see the new "friends" everything i've been hearing has been real positive from set lists to jammin and everything in between heres a good show to one and all...enjoy folks

nfenne starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 07:10AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

nfenne

This is one of the best lineups Phil has ever put together. Steve reminded me of Keith on the piano and almost like Brent on the organ. Everything I heard Jackie sing was amazing and the guitar play between him & Campbell was impressive. I thought Jackie's guitar playing would be overshadowed by Larry Campbell but he holds his own. Looking at the setlists this tour it looks like they still need to bust out more material.

aquariumdrunk starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 07:14AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

aquariumdrunk

The Phillmore and Red Rocks shows in CO were an absolute blast and from the Archive recordings, it's sounding like they're developing really well. At first blush, I didn't see the ability to get 'out there,' but they've managed to pull off some really incredible stuff over a few of the shows. Another great incarnation of P&F and another opportunity to hear fresh interpretations of the classics. I'm hoping they keep things up and allow Jackie some time to expand his knowledge of the Dead songbook. :)

TimCorcoran starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 08:56AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

TimCorcoran

Phil, Larry, John, Steve, and Jackie have found their calling in this line-up without a doubt. This is not just Phil and Friends anymore, its more like Phil and Family! I hope they **NEVER** break apart! =)

moejoerisin Fri 10/19/2007 09:08AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

moejoerisin

red rocks was indeed an amazing experience. the acoustic set was beautiful, and jackie greene fits snugly into the phil and friends framework. tons of energy. molitz really adds a great element too. dude is too talented for a band like particle. (sorry, but it's true).

Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Dark Star > Mountains of the Moon > Dark Star > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider... heavenly

moejoerisin Fri 10/19/2007 09:10AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

moejoerisin

by the way, tim: great article.

GB3K-Poops starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 09:12AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

GB3K-Poops

Saw these guys in Chicago, I saw Phil and friends once before and was always more of a bob and Ratdog person, but after seeing/hearing Jackies amazing vocals, Guitar/ harmonica and piano solos, i was blow away. Phil and friends is very talented and should be turning/as well as melting many heads!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 09:56AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

go buy jackie greenes albums.. sweet somewhere bound, and American myth.

they are fantastic. He has a bob dylan like way about him.. trust me.

Detroit Funk starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 10:40AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Detroit Funk

I've listened to a lot of Phil and friends line ups, but never caught any live till this chicago run a couple weeks ago. Fuckin beautiful. I haven't heard a single bad word said about Jackie. Steve does bring that awesome element to be able to switch it to the spacey synth and vocoder real quick. This is an awesome show to see.

johnnygoff starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 11:39AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

johnnygoff

The phil, warrren, scofield, molo, molitz is my fave. lineup ever--IMHO

however, I watched the webcast of echo in its entirety and I really enjoyed what I saw. Jackie is a breath of fresh air.

fully agree with Phil on this:

"He (Molitz) played this amazing solo on 'Unbroken Chain' at Mountain Jam in New York this summer. It was a synthesizer thing that fit so perfectly that I kept thinking to myself, 'Why have I waited so long to sneak this element in?"

Couldn't agree more! Was there and specifically remember this solo. Lots of heads were originally 'down' on the choice of Molitz. Untz-nation was not though, as we knew that 5'8, 150 lb frame of Molitz packs nearly a half-ton of energy!

great interviews and way to tie into a nice, tight feature piece.

lowbillyjim starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 11:59AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This guy has got it and this takes nothing from the tremendous talent of larry Campbell. The Echo show was a standout!!!

tommont starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 02:44PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

tommont

Jackie Greene is the shizznickle. I loved the Greek show in Berkeley. also wonderful to hear Sless (Cumberland!) and Mr. Mark Karan sporting his new bald dome (we love you Mark, be well and great to see you on stage!) at the end. I'm glad that Phil and or his ppl have a knack for pulling some talent to add to the friends and I love how it will turn so many folks on to Jackie's fine work that otherwise would never have known / heard him. Yeah sure some songs are "dylanesque" but hey if you are going to be derivative why not Bobby D? - tom / berkeley ca

heynowBeKynd starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 05:36PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

heynowBeKynd

Greene is sooo great. he was just awesome when Phil & Friends were in chicago. He is an amazing musician... his guitar solos during "Sugaree" on sunday night at the Riv just blew my mind!!!! phantastic.

Armedaneian starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 08:46PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Armedaneian

Good article! I wish I could have made it to Echo, but on a Sunday night, that was too far away from home. I can't make it to NY either, so here's to the next tour(I'm making a toast) and maybe a Florida date!

aaronjl1 Fri 10/19/2007 11:19PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

aaronjl1

would love to see these guys...

saw jackie green a few years ago on the acoustic stage at roo and was blown away in the tennessee heat. phil & friends were there too... it's too bad their paths didn't cross then.

this trip could have been going strong for the past two years-

bobertjohnson starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/20/2007 05:04PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Makes me wish the Chicago dates weren't 50 bucks + charges a piece, I would've been there, sounds like a great band got put together.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/20/2007 08:27PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Chaloupka

Yeah, Jackie Greene's American Myth album is great!

ufitzi starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/20/2007 10:43PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

just got back from the GFCC.....WOW!!!

One of the best shows I've been lucky enough to see....find it and listen to it, the band and the crowd were amazing....there's so much to say about this show, but let me say this...Phil sang lead MOST of the night, and he was ON...AMAZING SHOW. Peace my friends!!

bh and cash

BlewW044 Sat 10/20/2007 10:50PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

BEAUTIFULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/21/2007 02:24PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pornofunk

wow jackie G should be reading this, I must say to win over a Jambase board is almost impossible. kudos...

greengrass starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/21/2007 03:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

greengrass

I saw these guys at the Santa Barbara bowl this summer and I enjoyed every minute. I turn to one of my friends and was like "who is this Greene guy he is great". I am glad to see him getting some attention that is well deserved..

billywilke Sun 10/21/2007 04:04PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

saw phil in glens falls last night, trey showed up unannounced. It was a great show.

groovinmoh starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/21/2007 05:35PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Was at all three Chicago shows and was blown away with this band. I've seen a few different Phil lineups before but this one seemed to mesh really well and it looked like they were having a blast on stage. See this band if you get a chance they will rock your socks off

HoodooVoodoo starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/21/2007 10:16PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

HoodooVoodoo

I haven't heard the incarnation of Phil & Friends with Jackie Greene yet. I was kind of hoping Phil would have picked Jackie Chan instead though. Maybe they could play Rumble in the Bronx Blues?

mary760 starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 04:38AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I haven't heard the incarnation of Phil & Friends with Jackie Greene too!But my friends say:it's the best and http://www.boxsweeper.com has a lot of these music to download!

nfenne Mon 10/22/2007 06:55AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

nfenne

Is it just me or does Phil's voice sound better on this tour?

HOPEFULPHAN starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 08:08AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

so did trey play the whole show? or just a few songs? and how did he look/sound. someone add a review please.

Unkl Russ starstarstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 10:03AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Unkl Russ

Yeah, I caught the Friday & Sunday shows in Chicago and was totally blown away. Great shows! The acoustic set on Sunday was fantastic. Jackie looks a bit young up there and I don't care for all his mannerisms, but he's a great musician and really does a fabulous job with Phil & Friends. Phil was singing quite well, too, which is great to hear!

jlampert starstarstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 05:30PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I saw Phil at Echo and in Buffalo and I agree. Greene is the man. The band sounds really good right now and Larry is much better then he was on previous tours. Solo wise at least. Still not quite as good as when Warren and Jimmy played with Phil*, but really good nevertheless. (Note: *that is unless Trey is playing with them because that Glen Falls show is sickness - it's worth a listen)

Irongirl starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 08:27PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Yes Phil's Voice was very strong and this is a line-up that just jels. I think Box of Rain was one of the best versions Ive heard him do since the Dead added it back into the rotation back in the 1980's. Trey did play the whole Glens Falls show. Hearing him sing the Bertha line.. "Why dont you arrest me" was a hoot. Nice Fiddle on Friend of the Devil. I had no idea who Jackie Greene was till after the show but I went to his website and took a listen and hes pretty awesome.

Ive already downloaded it and added it to the IPOD

weirman029 Wed 10/24/2007 06:42AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

weirman029

ive caught a bunch of shows on this tour, and i must say, its one of the highest spirit, energy packed tours i think phil has played. jackie is learning, each time ive seen him hes been getting better and better. larry cambell is the anchor on guitar for sure, but its amazing to see everyone work with eachother, especially jackie, because hes not as used to looseness. but i must say, for getting thrown into this, hes is doing wonderful. except for the sugaree in connecticut, he royally fucked that up...

PHILLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!

Melian Wed 10/24/2007 06:58AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nice article, and Glens Falls ROCKED MY WORLD last Saturday night!!! I traveled far for this show, and it was well worth it. It was Trey's first appearance since his house arrest, and from the great seats I had, it appeared Phil and Trey were having a blast playing together. Poor young Jackie Green was sick that night, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the power that was the Phil/Larry/Trey combo, and didn't do much. I'm sorry I missed catching him. But, Saturday night was the bomb. Thanks, Phil!

billywilke Thu 10/25/2007 09:36AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

dude how dope was the dark star jam at glens falls, fuckin franklins tower was bumpin, trey and phils harmonies were dead on

himisshoff starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/26/2007 05:52PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Good story, but I honestly can't believe everyone likes this kid. I saw the The Fillmore and Red Rocks shows and the Fillmore was downright embarrassing. Red Rocks was marginally better but everytime Jackie Greene sung I ended up shaking my head. Plus Friend of the Devil two nights in a row? Maybe I just don't think his voice works with the music. Have always loved scofield, haynes, and even trey but I can't get into this kid.

clarkwgriswold starstarstarstar Fri 11/9/2007 11:46AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I want to see Phil tonight at the Nokia. Hearing good things about this tour. Too bad Tickets will be like $150. Dr. Dog is sold out too, and I heard Rose Hill Drive blows. Whatever.

Jessrooo2 starstarstarstar Sat 11/10/2007 12:55AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Jessrooo2

I saw them in chicago and can't stop listening to the shows online. I can't get enough of his voice and the way everyone seems to mesh so well...too bad i had to miss the ny shows...i can only hope the do one more tour together.Jackie is so young and gifted and lucky to have been taken in by phil. yeah P&F!!!

HEARiTSPiRiT Mon 11/12/2007 09:09PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

HEARiTSPiRiT

bring back the Q!

vinyl_dorm starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/16/2007 08:08PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Saw the show in Glens Falls with Trey. Amazing show. The seques were top-notch. Trey stayed back when needed and unleash a fury when he felt necessary. I'm not a big fan of Trey, but anything with this lineup of Phil and Friends I will be downloading no matter what.

If you missed the show or would like to see what I mean, there are some sweet videos on youtube.

On a side note: It's too bad because of the writer's strike all of us Deadheads will be unable to see them perform. Am I allowed to hate writers, or will I am hating on myself?

PCPrabbit Tue 11/27/2007 12:49PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

PCPrabbit

phil's vocals sound better than ever. i think it's a combo of his voice coach and them transposing the songs he sings into more managable keys. just my theory, but either way, he sounds awesome, and so does the band.

does anybody here miss sless?