Jerry Garcia begins with a devastated cry, singing with a whispering hurt. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” has never sounded more confidential, never more personal. Even when the rest of the Jerry Garcia Band joins in, even when Garcia offers a searching, ultimately quite gripping solo, the song never rises above a reverential whisper.
This new reading, an advance look into the forthcoming GarciaLive: Volume Four, is simply enveloped in an atmosphere of absence. A sense of loss — loss of friends, family and of place — was always there, of course, in the Band’s original. Levon Helm’s stoicly prideful reading of the lyric, however, could never have been so completely overtaken by sadness — and that is almost all that remains here as the late Garcia offers an utterly unique update.
Recorded March 22, 1978 at Sebastopol, California’s Veterans Hall, GarciaLive: Volume Four finds the late Grateful Dead legend collaborating with the likes of Maria Muldaur, John Kahn, Keith and Donna Godchaux and Buzz Buchanan. The set took place just days before the release of the lone Garcia Band studio effort, Cats Under the Stars.
GarciaLive: Volume Four, which also marks the initial guest appearance by future Garcia Band regular Ozzie Ahlers on keyboards, is due July 15, 2014, via Ato Records.