Uncle John's Band High Time Dire Wolf New Speedway Boogie Cumberland Blues Black Peter Easy Wind Casey Jones New Speedway Boogie Dire Wolf Black Peter Easy Wind Cumberland Blues Mason's Children Uncle John's Band
The Grateful Dead's first four albums reinforced their stature as a performing group, with a loose improvisational feel rooted in the blues, rock & roll, and modern jazz. But with the 1970 release of Workingman's Dead, Garcia, Weir, Lesh, McKernan, Kreutzmann, and Hart reined in their many spatial musical elements and found their true stylistic niche in the studio with an engaging blend of country, blues, and folk. Where earlier studio releases strove to recreate the kind of freeform group improvisations that won the Dead a fanatical cult following in the Bay area, Workingman's Dead drew upon a rural American vernacular that was in many ways analogous to that of the Band.The resulting music has a rootsy, timeless quality, with tight instrumental arrangements, concise solo breaks, and a carefully wrought style of vocal harmonising. The Dead won extensive airplay with tuneful songs like "Uncle John's Band" and "Casey Jones", while expanding their following well beyond San Francisco. Garcia's slithering pedal steel counterpoint and twangy banjo rolls make for a charismatic new style of bluegrass on "Dire Wolf" and "Cumberland Blues", while "New Speedway Boogie", featuring some of Robert Hunter's best lyrics, is a pointed personal metaphor for the tragic chaos at Altamont the summer before. This remains one of the legendary band's most concise and beautifully executed records.
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