Before there was a jam-band scene, there were the Zen Tricksters, a Grateful Dead-inspired New York band, founded in the mid-Eighties, whose grip on the Dead's canon was well-regarded even while the real thing was still around. Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay was in the Dead for most of the Seventies, and the pairing of her Southern-gospel alto and the Tricksters' roots-and-groove interplay on Donna Jean & the Tricksters (Heart of Gold) is a warm, perfect fit, especially in the early-Seventies Boz Scaggs-style R&B of "All I Gotta Say" and "No Better Way." The production will be too crisp and clean if your idea of nirvana is a '74 Dead soundboard. But this record is built for comfort and camaraderie, the old Bay Area way.
Fricke's Picks: Zen Tricksters
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