LEWISTON – Bald Hill, those surprisingly hep purveyors of blues-infected newgrass, folk rock and Americana, will present the second annual All Dead Revue here at the She Doesn’t Like Guthrie’s Restaurant & Café on Friday night, Jan. 24.
This Grateful Dead tribute show (All Dead inclusive of their covers, songs performed by the Jerry Garcia Band and other offshoots) will start promptly at 8 p.m. — maybe sooner, as the line-up and set list are jam-packed. Be sure to arrive early so as to avail yourself of Guthrie’s signature burritos, panini, craft brews and fine wines.
While New Gloucester-based Bald Hill will preside on 24 January, several special guests will participate — in order to execute the wide-ranging, sure-to-be-crowd-pleasing set list (whose contents nevertheless remains a closely guarded secret). Those performers include multi-instrumentalists Mike Conant and Ted McHugh, in addition to very special guest: Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, whose bodily presence left this mortal coil in September 2019, but whose astral presence will participate next Friday night in the form of a microphone stand positioned stage left.
“We’re excited to have Mr. Hunter participating,” BH mandolinist Ben DeTroy said. “We nearly landed Jerry – in the form of an XLR cable. But he’s attending the Senate impeachment hearings instead, as an angel on the shoulder of Justice Roberts. Apparently.”
Bald Hill sets routinely include Grateful Dead covers (the band’s next gig: a return to Gritty’s McDuff’s Brewing Co. in Auburn, on March 7) but its presentation of the All Dead Revue is a natural outgrowth of the band’s own roots. BH started out as a bluegrass band, and while there will be plenty of rockin’ Dead interpretations Jan. 24, some may be surprised to learn just how much bluegrass and other traditional genres similarly influenced The Grateful Dead.
Jerry Garcia started out as a banjo player in a bluegrass lineup (a role he reprised in the ‘70s bluegrass “super group” Old & In the Way), and the Dead routinely covered bluegrass and otherwise traditional tunes — even if they became more famous later as “Dead tunes”. Think Pig in a Pen or Cold Rain & Snow. The band’s very first single (from their debut, self-titled 1967 album) was Sitting on Top of the World, a song made famous by bluegrass legend Doc Watson (but first recorded by the Mississippi Sheiks in 1930). Many Grateful Dead originals also make allusions to classic folk tunes. Deal, for example, incorporates themes and phrases found in Sam and Kirk McGee’s Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down, while the classic Casey Jones riffs off The Ballad of Casey Jones, a song that describes a real-life train wreck that happened in 1900.
“Casey Jones didn’t start out as a song,” Hunter told Rolling Stone in 2015. “It just suddenly popped into my mind: ‘driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones, you better watch your speed…’ I just wrote that down and I went on to whatever else I was doing, and some time later I came across it and thought, ‘That’s the germ of a pretty good song.’ ”