January 13, 1997 12:00 PM

Jerry Garcia and David Grisman

Even during his long, electrified sets, Jerry Garcia would slip in a lick or reference to the traditional music he loved. After all, he played in Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions before forming the Grateful Dead. In the last five years of his life, he’d leave messages for his friend, mandolinist David Grisman, inventor of a jazz-flavored brand of bluegrass he called Dawg music: “Hey, Dawggie, this is Papa Doc Garcia. I know you’re in there, damn it!” Soon they’d be in Grisman’s Mill Valley, Calif., studio pickin’ guitars, mandolins, banjos, anything with strings. Fortunately—and not just for Deadheads—Grisman got it all on tape.

On Shady Grove, the first album in a series culled from the sessions, the interplay between Garcia’s guitar and Grisman’s mandolin imparts new musical nuances to 13 traditional folk songs, including “Down in the Valley” and “Whiskey in the Jar.” Garcia’s voice sounds its quavery best on slow, tragic tunes like “Fair Ellender” and “Dreadful Wind and Rain”—the latter a surreal affair in which a murdered woman’s body is reconstructed as a fiddle. Garcia fans will also recognize “Jackaroo,” as the Dead concert staple “Jack-A-Roe” and “Casey Jones,” the folk song that inspired the Dead’s familiar, more intoxicated send-up. (Acoustic Disc)

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