David Gans and Rumpke Mountain Boys
Stanleys Pub, 323 Stanley Ave, Cincinnati, OH
Perhaps the foremost interpreter of Grateful Dead music today and an accomplished guitarist, singer and songwriter in his own right, David Gans now shares with us his own well-crafted and heartfelt interpretations of some of the Grateful Dead’s best songs on It’s a Hand-Me-Down, which was released November 27, 2015 on Gans’ Perfectible Recordings label.
Gans approaches Grateful Dead music with a unique range and a rare degree of mastery on multiple levels: as a noted writer (his most recent volume, This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead [Nov 2015], co-authored with Blair Jackson, presents the definitive story of the Grateful Dead in their own words), as a commentator and radio-show host he has introduced, contextualized, and exposed Grateful Dead music to generations of Deadheads and casual fans. As a musician, singer, and impresario he has brought the music to life in solo and ensemble configurations. As an interviewer and documentor, he has chronicled the Grateful Dead experience from a kaleidoscopic array of perspective, as an insider, an outsider, and a songsmith. “Even the most erudite Deadheads will be equally surprised and delighted with This Is All A Dream We Dreamed… enlightens as much as it entertains,” writes Glide Magazine.
It’s a Hand-Me-Down sets some of the Dead tunes Gans most enjoys performing in a “solo electric” context closely modeled on his performance style, making extensive use of looping and electronics to bring the sort of shimmery elastic feel required to do this material justice. “The idea was to make a record that sounds like my performances: guitar and vocal, with some additional layers of guitar made possible by the Boss RC-30 Loop Station which allows me to record the chord changes of a song so I can play a guitar solo on top of them. It also makes it possible to create multi-layered performances of composed and improvised music.”
“What sticks out most is how Gans strips down some of the Dead’s most cherished songs and serves them up the way he sees them. For a guy with a Ph.D in the Grateful Dead, he’s as qualified as anyone to give an inside perspective at what the Dead’s music means to him…” writes NYS Music’s Neil Benjamin Jr. “The soft and serene tracks are perfect background music for a dinner party or solo reading time. Gans’ voice is unique, but similar enough to Garcia’s that you feel that comfortable peace that came with every word the man sang.”
For this collection, David has chosen songs whose lyrics and melodies he has explored deeply and inhabited in performance. “Songs I cover from the Dead or other artists tend to tell a piece of my own story. It might just be one line or part of a line in a song that resonates in my own little atomic structure, and I don’t always recognize the connection at first. But eventually I find the resonances. I do the songs that I feel are appropriate for me,” says Gans, “and I’ve adapted them to my own style. I’ve changed the key, changed the phrasing or the groove.”
David brings a unique mix of experiences to this project. Most Deadheads first discovered Gans through his radio show or his writing, but music has always been central, the constant drumbeat organizing his many hats, with the Dead’s music specifically woven through much of it and mingling with his own.
None of this was planned. David never set out to become a professional Deadhead or a DJ. Another page he took from the Grateful Dead book was this model of improvising your own life, and staying open to a serendipitous build-up of events and circumstances that led David on his path. This is also David’s way of celebrating the ever morphing and shifting cultural legacy of the Dead. Each generation experiences the music differently, but draws from the same cultural pool… telling and retelling of the stories, and David Gans is a master storyteller.
“‘It’s a Hand Me Down is] is for the word nerds, people who appreciate the way syllables lean against one another and the way a story is told. Words that connect with us to tell a story, but also to pull us from ourselves long enough to realize the words are about us,” writes Dan Fugate in Modern Life Discussions.
Listen in to an interview with David Gans and In Search of a Song in this podcast → https://beta.prx.org/stories/