With the recent announcement that Phil Lesh has signed on for an exclusive 45-show residency with Peter Shapiro, that will
augment his regular appearances at his own Terrapin Crossroads club in San Rafael, CA; the
former Grateful Dead bass player will likely be offering up a slew of new configurations
of his ongoing Phil And Friends project. Over the last few weeks, we here at JamBase have
been pitching our ideas for new members to join Phil’s lauded fraternity.
[Photo by Sterling Munksgard]
Over the last decade-plus Phil has developed a “man-crush” for Americana-leaning singer-
songwriters - cases in point Ryan Adams and Jackie Greene. While Ryan Adams only played a
handful of shows with Lesh, he left an indelible mark on the 73-year-old, who continues to
perform tunes from Adams' catalog with both his own ensemble and even bringing them with
him to Furthur. Greene had an extended tenure with Lesh during the band’s “roots-y”
incarnation, whose lineup also included Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams. With the
current folk-rock revival hitting a fever pitch, I’d like to make a case for Dawes front
man Taylor Goldsmith – who should be the leading candidate for Phil’s next musical
Goldsmith & Co. are already rooted in the cosmic American sounds that Phil has fallen in
love with again. The band even has a direct connection to Phil, as their first two studio
albums were produced by Jonathan Wilson, who has become a “friend” sharing the stage with
both Lesh and Bob Weir. Goldsmith could step seamlessly into the Dead world, in fact he’s
already a student of their music, having wax poetic about the band in several 2009
interviews, including this one for Aquarium Drunkard.
Goldsmith has a knack for singing long and winding country-inflected story-songs, so tunes
like “Ramble On Rose,” “Wharf Rat” and “Loser” are in his proverbial wheelhouse, but he
could also dutifully handle the tender ballads such as “China Doll” and “Stella Blue.” The
addition of Goldsmith would also give Phil the incentive to start including some of Weir’s
material into the rotation as Taylor’s big booming voice is perfectly suited to tackle
some of Bobby’s cowboy rockers – “Black Throated Wind” in particular has his name written
all over it. I would also contend that Taylor is a severely underrated guitar player
capable of ripping off psychedelic Crazy Horse-tinged solos. Want some proof? Check out
“Peace In The Valley,” the closing track on Dawes’ debut record North Hills.
Over the last few years Dawes has also become something of the in-demand go-to backing
band as they have taken the stage behind the likes of Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson, M.
Ward and Conor Oberst – so interpreting others' material has become old hat for Goldsmith
at this point, and we’d love to see him taking a stab at the Grateful Dead canon.
Written By: Jeffrey Greenblatt