Jam Cruise 9 | Review | Pics

Friday, January 7

Cornmeal/Greensky by Dave Vann
Pickin’ Party – Rock Covers :: 5:00-6:00 PM :: Zebra Bar
Greensky Bluegrass and Cornmeal joined forces for this year’s pickin’ party, which tackled classic rock numbers with audience members playing along. The musicians would announce a basic chord structure and occasionally call out changes, and the whole thing would trundle out of the gate with ragged charm. Beginning with a bonafide gem, Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” (announced as one of Homer Simpson’s favorites), it would have been nearly impossible not to have fun at this set, which included a stab at Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page,” The Beatles’ “Get Back”, fine woo-hoos from the crowd on “Sympathy For The Devil” and some choice spoon and harmonica solos from audience members. While both Cornmeal and Greensky are known as string bands, this session showed off the rock ‘n’ roll souls some of us having been picking up on for ages.

Pool Deck by Chris Monaghan
God Street Wine :: 8:30-10:30 PM :: Pool Deck
Beginning with a superb cover of Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic,” God Street Wine’s second set of the cruise rolled out with the same near-perfect execution. Once again, their jamming always went somewhere; a real group activity, conversational, motion-filled, lively. During Leo Nocentelli’s guest turn it occurred to me that Jam Cruise is a real temple to the archetypes of modern music. Just this cruise featured core members of the Grateful Dead, The Meters and James Brown’s band, all of whom enthusiastically reveled in the chance to show off their chops whenever opportunity arose. Again, even if one were unfamiliar with God Street’s music, the tunes were immediately enjoyable and a great platform for their guests like Anders Osborne, who dove in, head bobbing, eyes steely, with an expression that said, “I’m gonna get me some!” Later, Anders Beck joined them for a rollicking “Get On The Train,” a song equal to Dylan during his blazing Highway 61 Revisited period. While it’s highly unlikely these guys will ever return to full-time touring, it’s to be hoped that they make another Jam Cruise appearance along with select land-based fest gigs. The music is too good not to be shared with more people.

NMS w/ Jen Hartswick by Chad Smith
The New Mastersounds :: 11:15 PM-1:15 AM :: Pool Deck
NMS do it clean and sharp. There’s nothing flabby about their approach to instrumental funk ‘n’ soul, and it inspires others to keep it neat and tight, too. While Robert Walter, Roosevelt Collier from The Lee Boys, Jennifer Hartswick, Mike Dillon and Zach Deputy played with hordes of others on this trip, they turned in some of their most concise, pointed playing with the Mastersounds at this set. But that’s just gravy for the core playing of this quartet, particularly the lightning fast guitar of Eddie Roberts (who also beats a tambourine with the possessed verve of a Baptist choir member) and the luxurious, feel-first bass work of Pete Shand, who proved my personal favorite of all the very gifted bassists on JC 9. The guy just crawls inside the musculature of a groove and lives there. So bloody satisfying!

Bill Kreutzmann by Chad Smith
The Rhythm Devils :: 2:00-4:00 AM :: Pool Deck
The new lineup of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart’s long running project was a real rock ‘n’ roll beast. Though playing a number of Grateful Dead numbers, this band – comprised of the drummers, Tim Bluhm (guitar, vocals), Davy Knowles (guitar, vocals), Andy Hess (bass) and Sikiru Adepoju (talking drum) with Steve Kimock joining them on the Cruise – moves along a MUCH different current. One recognizes the melodies and words but the feel is quite different. For one thing, Bluhm and Knowles are have much stronger voices than Weir or Garcia. Hey, I love Jerry and Bob as much as the next guy, but there’s something really cool about hearing powerful, dexterous vocalists tackle pieces like “Ship of Fools,” “U.S. Blues” and “Ripple.” This isn’t said to be disrespectful but to simply point out a key difference. Mickey and Billy didn’t choose these guys casually, and the difference is really felt in the new originals, where the drummers even lay down their version of a straight backbeat on a couple poppier pieces.

Rhythm Devils by Dave Vann
This group also cooked on classics like “Cumberland Blues” and “Uncle John’s Band,” breathing air into the familiar. I think it helps that Knowles, Hess and Bluhm weren’t tie-dyed-in-the-wool Deadheads before joining up. This music is largely new to them and thus comes across to our ears with a freshness that’s exciting. Hess is especially striking in how he converses with the drummers, finding a tough, harmonious groove that’s worlds away from Phil Lesh. He listens really hard, responding and adapting in the moment, and always coming out the other side right in tune with Kreutzmann and Hart. The finale of “Good Lovin’” included a nice chant of “Turn this boat around/ ‘Cause we don’t want to go home” led by Bluhm, who came into his own by set’s end. For however long this band lasts, they’re making arguably the most interesting Dead music happening right now.

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