One Track Mind: Jerry Garcia/David Grisman, "The Thrill Is Gone" (1991)

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by Pico

OK, I’ll say it up front: I’ve never been a fan of The Grateful Dead. Don’t know for sure why; after all, I love extended improvisations and the confluence of different styles. And it’s not that I don’t like jam bands; I can listen to the Allman Brothers and Umphrey’s McGee all day. I dunno, maybe it’s because G.D.’s songs typically have a distinctive hazy surface to in their sound that I’ve never been able to get past. But evidently, a lot of folks have. Go figure.

And insofar as bluegrass goes, I’m not a fan of Nickel Creek either, and I don’t have any Bill Monroe records. I think I have a Allison Krauss that I’ve listened to, oh, once.

So why do I dig Jerry Garcia so much when he hooks up with David Grisman?

Still not sure there, but it might be the songs and the way they play them. They could take just about anything out of their vast fake book…blues, jazz, traditional folk, rock, whatever…and give these old songs a fresh new scent using just acoustic guitar (Garcia) and mandolin (Grisman) and minimal accompaniment.

You don’t even think “bluegrass” when you listen to them or the original genre of the tunes they’re playing, because it’s clear these two guys loved music without ever thinking of what compartment they belonged into.

It also didn’t hurt that these old hippies were such damned superb musicians.

So this week’s pick is perhaps Grateful Dawg’s best known track, a snappy rendition of B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.” The two principals, percussionist and acoustic bass are playing super tight together and Garcia provides his signature understated vocal delivery to shrug off a just-ended love affair convincingly. Tasty licks are provided by both guys in the instrumental breaks, as well.

Although originally recorded in the studio for Garcia/Grisman’s Jerry Garcia/David Grisman album, here’s a live version of our track of the week. Oh and just for the hell of it, I’m throwing in some lagniappe from the same concert: their incredible rendition of the jazz classic “So What”. It’s my second favorite version, after the original. And with all the covers out there, that’s saying something.

“One Track Mind” is a weekly drool over a single song seemingly selected at random and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron

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