The Deal: New take on noodle and mumble boys buries Dead, resurrects and recreates their music.
The Good: If you ever thought you might have liked the Dead's music if better, more focused musicians had been performing it, Fennario is a shot at redemption for them and a noodle-free listening environment for you. The only stumbling block here is getting your attention to the project. Emory Joseph is by no means a household name. But praise from Bonnie Raitt for his '03 debut, Labor And Spirits, and his song "Trinkets" making it onto her '05 Souls Alive release, as well as a tour opening for Little Feat have helped get Joseph's name out. It's a laid-back folk/rock sound, with vocals like Steve Forbert's enthusiastic adolescent sounding style. That's not a criticism – it's a fresh sound that pumps vigor into wheezy old Dead chestnuts like "Sugaree" and "Tennessee Jed." They're reborn with Joseph at the helm. "Sugaree" sounds like a funky outtake form a long lost Band album. "Tennessee Jed" rocks out with a Big Easy second line heartbeat punctuated by a rollicking piano that sounds like a backwoods offspring created by Jerry Lee Lewis and Dr John. "Loose Lucy" sounds like '50s swamp pop classic. "New Speedway Boogie" is transformed into a voodoo ritual that sounds like Tony Joe White officiating.
The Bad: This one almost went in the trash bin. No name recognition for the artist and a subtitle, Songs by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, that sounds like its going to be yet another rehash of Dead songs.
The Verdict: This one will get played a lot. Just don't tell your friends where the originals came from.
Iris; Release date: Aug. 19, 2008