Today’s New Albums: Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Infamous Stringdusters, Death Cab For Cutie & More


Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, The Infamous Stringdusters, Death Cab for Cutie, The White Stripes, Calexico, Polyrhythmics and lespecial. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.

Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders – GarciaLive Vol. 15: Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, May 21st, 1971

The Scoop: The latest installment in Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia’s solo archival release series, GarciaLive Vol. 15: Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, May 21st, 1971, is out today via Round Records. In the early-1970s, Garcia was a regular performer at informal jams at the San Francisco club Keystone Korner that often included keyboardist Merl Saunders. Drummer Bill Vitt was also a regular and was there on the night of May 21, 1971. Those jams typically saw participation from frequent Garcia cohort, bassist John Kahn, who was likely at another gig that evening in ’71. Instead of Kahn, joining Garcia, Saunders and Vitt was saxophonist Martin Fierro, who had performed with Garcia and Howard Wales on the 1971 album, Hooteroll? and would later join Garcia and Saunders in Legion Of Mary. GariaLive Vol. 15 features “The Wall Song,” which was originally released by David Crosby and Graham Nash on 1972’s Graham Nash/David Crosby album (backed by Garcia and his Grateful Dead bandmates, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and bassist Phil Lesh), The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and the Elvis Presley-popularized “That’s Alright, Mama” and “Mystery Train.” The set also contains a number of Garcia solo rarities such as an instrumental version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her.”

The Infamous Stringdusters – Dust the Halls: An Acoustic Christmas Holiday!

The Scoop: The Infamous Stringdusters’ Dust The Halls: An Acoustic Christmas Holiday! arrives today via Americana Vibes. The Grammy-winning bluegrass quintet — Chris Pandolfi (banjo), Andy Hall (dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) and Travis Book (bass) — recorded the entire album remotely during quarantine from Colorado, New York and North Carolina. “Once we realized in March (of 2020) that we were going to be off the road for a long while,” Falco said in a statement, “we started trying to figure out how we could remain creatively connected as a band who lives in different cities across the United States and unable to travel.” After each member recorded their part, Falco mixed and mastered the album in his home studio. The 10-song set features acoustic instrumental takes on holiday classics such as “Little Drummer Boy,” “Deck The Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland” and more.

Death Cab For Cutie – The Georgia E.P.

The Scoop: Death Cab for Cutie’s five-song set of covers, The Georgia E.P., is available to download via Bandcamp for 24 hours. Proceeds will benefit the voting rights organization Fair Fight. Dedicated by DCFC to “Stacey Abrams and all the hardworking men and women at Fair Fight,” the EP contains covers of songs by musicians from Georgia. DCFC covered “Waterfalls” by TLC, “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1″ by Neutral Milk Hotel, “Fall On Me” by R.E.M., “Flirted With You All My Life” by Vic Chesnutt and “Metal Heart” by Cat Power. The covers were recorded, produced and engineered by DCFC over four days in November.

The White Stripes – Greatest Hits

The Scoop: “My sister thanks you, and I thank you” is written atop of the cover of The White Stripes Greatest Hits album, which captures 26 career-spanning tracks. Of course, The White Stripes duo of Jack White and Meg White are ex-husband and wife, rather than the ficitous sibiling mythology they conjured. Here’s how Jack and Meg detailed their Greatest Hits collection:

Twentysome years ago, a brother and sister climbed into the third floor attic of their Southwest Detroit family homestead and bashed out a primitive cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” sparking something in both of them and leading them to take their simple guitar-drums-voice approach to a local open mic night on Bastille Day. In what feels like a whirlwind, they record and release two 7-inch singles for a local indie label. A not-so-local indie offers to put out a full-length album. They start touring. Another album. More touring. Another album. Folks REALLY start to pay attention. Crazy touring, more albums, accolades, wildest dream after wildest dream coming true. “World-renowned” becomes an appropriate descriptor, as does “long-building overnight sensation.” The same hard work and dedication that The White Stripes exhibited from the onset of their existence is what has been poured into The White Stripes Greatest Hits. In an era of streaming where the idea of a “Greatest Hits” album may seem irrelevant – that an act’s most streamed songs are considered their de facto “hits” – we wholeheartedly believe that great bands deserve “Greatest Hits” and that a large part of Third Man Records’ and The White Stripes’ successes have been built on zigging when the rest of the music business is zagging. Thus, for a great band with great fans, a greatest hits compilation for The White Stripes is not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary.

Calexico – Seasonal Shift

The Scoop: Tucson, Arizona-based group Calexico release their holiday record, Seasonal Shift today through ANTI-Records. The new LP is “less of a Christmas album and more of a cross-cultural seasonal celebration,” as per a press release. Seasonal Shift sees Calexico’s core members Joey Burns and John Convertino collaborating with a number of artists including Bombino, Gaby Moreno, Gisela João, Nick Urata (DeVotchKa) and Camilo Lara. The LP offers a variety of seasonal sounds, referencing Portuguese fado and old Mexican folk songs and also includes holiday covers like John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” Additionally, the 12-song collection features originals, like Seasonal Shift lead single “Hear The Bells,” that highlight holiday celebrations in Calexico’s neck of the woods. “When writing songs for a seasonal album, I wanted to include some of the aspects of celebrations and traditions observed in Tucson around early November,” vocalist and guitarist Joey Burns said. “[‘Hear The Bells’] is about holding time and space for memories. Dia de Los Muertos and The All Souls Procession are two events that have influenced Southern Arizona and remembering those who’ve passed away.”

Polyrhythmics – Fondue Party

The Scoop: Earlier this year, Seattle’s Polyrhythmics released the full-length studio album Man From The Future through Color Red Music. The sessions that yielded the LP also birthed a new EP out today on Color Red, Fondue Party. Polyrhythmics saved the five songs from the sessions specifically for release as an EP, as they are said to “explore the group’s downtempo, chilled-out side with heavy dub influence.”

“We wanted to do something different this time. It feels appropriate given all the changes happening in our world and 2020 marking the 10th anniversary of the band’s existence,” noted drummer Grant Schroff of Fondue Party. “We wanted to make an EP that has a vibe to it as a whole. As COVID rages on and the weather turns colder, we will once again be retreating back into our homes. We wanted to offer a record that people can reach for when they want to light a candle and have a chill night at home, take a puff and do the dishes or have a Fondue Party with some close friends.”

lespecial – Ancient Homies

The Scoop: Connecticut-based trio lespecial unveiled their third studio album, Ancient Homies, today via Ropeadope Records. The band’s first studio project in over three years comes 15 years into their career. Lespecial recorded the 11-track effort at multiple locations including Potterville International Sound in Kerhonkson, New York; the Music Cellar in Millerton, New York; Beartrax Studio in Millerton, New York and in bassist Luke Bemand’s “Bassment” in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Ancient Homies is a sort of paradox that feels true to our character. The term ‘Ancient’ evokes feelings of mysticism and omnipotence, and yet at the end of the day, we are just three homies, three lifelong friends who have embraced our calling to make music together,” explained Bemand. “While some of the material is dark, the overarching absurdity of life and of our music reminds us to not take it too seriously.”

Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.