The Garcia Project’s “Spirit” A Loving Tribute to Jerry Garcia and the Spiritual Songs He Performed. Maria Mudaur talks about Jerry.

Published on May 1, 2020
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Photo by: Bob Minkin

Mik Bondy and Kat Walkerson have been honoring the music of the Jerry Garcia Band with their setlist-duplicating Garcia Project shows for almost 10 years now. It started with Mik playing in tribute bands. One day he ran into a Hammond B-3 player, not even a Dead Head (imagine!), and their conversation evolved into a Merl-Melvin musicology master class…Soon after, Kat Walkerson came along to make the vocals pop, and the full Garcia Project was born. They’ve won a lot of friends and had a lot of fun criss-crossing the nation. And there is nothing, to approximate a certain venerable phrase, like live music. But there also comes a time to step off the road, sit down in a real studio, and pay homage in a different way with a quality recording.

They’d done a number of shows with Maria Muldaur, giving her a chance to recreate her harmonies with Donna Jean Godchaux from back in the mid-late 1970s, when she posed the question, “Why don’t you guys make a record?” Mik gave it some thought, and decided that a cover band live was one thing, but on a record…maybe less so. Then he said, “You know, Jerry did a whole lot of gospel songs one way and another. What do you think of doing a gospel album?”

Peter Rowan

Maria Muldaur has had one of the best smiles in the music world for a good long while, and this earned one of her best. She brought in Peter Rowan, who of course was in Old and in the Way with Garcia, and Mik connected with Buzz Buchanan, who played in the band around the same time as Maria. Jackie LaBranch, who with (blessed be her memory) Gloria Jones was one-half of the Jerry-ettes for some 15 years, was more than happy to join the session. Jason Crosby jumped in because that’s the kind of guy he is. Jacob Joliff from Yonder Mountain String Band fell by, and Dan Crea and Tommy Nagy, the Project’s rhythm section, were on hand. And Gary Kaye from Mill Valley and Rick Turner, part of the legendary Alembic team that created the Wall of Sound and tended to Garcia’s guitars, rounded out the bunch.

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Jason Crosby

The result is Spirit: A Loving Tribute to Jerry Garcia and the Spiritual Songs He Performed.  They cover some ground…you know the Hunter-Garcia originals like “Gomorrah” and “Palm Sunday.” And you know “Sisters and Brothers.” But “The Magnificent Sanctuary Band” was on a solo album, but never played live. And if you didn’t catch the band in the ’76-’78 era, you never heard ‘Who Was John’ 9 (brought to the band by its bassist John Kahn) or “I’ll Be With Thee.’ And “Cold Jordan” is something Jerry did acoustically in 1970, at Binghamton and on the Festival Express…which is to say, not too frequently. There are other rarities, too. In sum. it’s a choice collection and beautifully done (when you have Maria Muldaur producing and doing the harmonies, you’re working with the best).

From Dennis McNally: “The first time I met Jerry, in 1973, after an Old and In The Way show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, he started the conversation by talking about how he’d spent the afternoon at a record store in Harlem that had an extraordinary gospel collection, better than anything you could then find, according to him, in the Bay Area. Later on he talked about how the band would spend afternoons at Front Street working on gospel tunes-not to perform, just for fun.

It wasn’t the theology of the songs that appealed to him-his religion was music-but the inherent soulfulness of gospel. In this time of trouble, it goes to all our hearts and helps us love one another. And that is truly fine.”

Spirit is available in regular CDs or digitally by going to https://www.thegarciaproject/spirit   


Jerry Garcia Family & Brooklyn Bowl presents The Garcia Project performing Who Was John

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