Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For a Song: Uncle John’s Band

Indigo Girls: Uncle John‘s Band


I’ll get to the main part of the post in a moment. I just want to clear off some blog business. There was no album review this past weekend. Basically, it wound up under a snow bank. I had things to do related to the storm, and that was the time I would have used for the review. The review I had in mind will now appear next weekend, and be the last review for the year.

Now then. Today, Oliver di Place is exactly one year old. So I wanted a song that would represent the spirit of what I try to do here. I needed folk, jazz, blues, even world music flavors. I wanted to celebrate good writing and good singing. And, if possible, I wanted something that would be a gift to my readers, something you might not have heard before. That’s a lot to ask of one song. And the Indigo Girls’ version of Uncle John’s Band doesn’t fill the bill completely.

But the Grateful Dead was one of my first musical loves. Various members brought bluegrass, blues, and jazz elements to the band, although you don’t hear all of that on every song, and I wasn’t aware of it at the time. But I think it’s fair to say that the music of the Grateful Dead eventually led me to explore all of those types of music. Mickey Hart would later explore world music, and I would explore with him. And I was always drawn to the storytelling in the Dead’s best songs. Uncle John’s Band is certainly one of those.

I know what you’re thinking. Why isn’t he presenting the Grateful Dead’s original version then? Funny thing about that. As I got older, I realized the Dead’s one major flaw: they were terrible singers. Even with the chance to clean things up in the studio, the original Uncle John’s Band is a fine example of this. And the Indigo Girls do a great job of fixing that, revealing that the song is even better than I thought.

I hope you can find the album this originally came from. It was a tribute to the Dead, called Deadicated, and it has many other gems on it. In a crime against humanity, the label has allowed Deadicated to go out of print. You can buy it at collector’s prices, but I have provided a purchase link for the Indigo Girls’ Rarities album as a more affordable option.


Anonymous said...

There wasn't any song with the link??

Darius said...

I just tested it, and it seems to be working now. However... If anyone else is having a problem, please let me know and I will do what I can to fix it.

Linda - SE PA said...


This commentary set the thoughts a'comin! Living on LI and with a progressive radio station that you could count on at least Grateful Dead offering per day, it surprised many that I didn't like them. Finally, after much airplay and as I listened at work I didn't have time to move the dial many times, I found a few songs I liked. I didn't "get it" as the devotion of their fans and on LI - they were legion. I've met folks who went on "tour" with them - quit jobs, loved ones - so far went the adoration.

Yet, after all this talk and other blatheings, you have hit the core issue - vocals! No wonder they jammed for what seemed forever. And in the end, where do they figure now - asking if the for example, The Beatles may go on as Pop group rather than a significant factor. Will the Dead be remembered for generations to come? And then, we can ponder, what was it all about anyways with this band? I sense one conclusion might be that of an event.

Anonymous said...

Brim over I to but I think the list inform should have more info then it has.

nan said...

Happy first blogiversary! And a great blog it is! This is a very nice Dead cover. It has just the right spirit. (Pun intended.) Was just listening last evening to the new live anthology of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and they had an excellent cover of Friend of the Devil.

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Anonymous said...

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