Though Jerry Garcia and David Grisman's relationship went back to the early Seventies -- along with fiddler Vassar Clements, bassist John Kahn and guitarist Peter Rowan, they recorded and released a live album as Old and in the Way -- the bearded duo recorded prolifically in the Nineties until Garcia's death in August 1995. Grisman has been a skilled gatekeeper for their sessions, offering bountiful releases on his Acoustic Disc label. On March 23rd, Acoustic Disc will issue Been All Around This World, another collection of songs from Garcia and the mandolin-playing legend.
"It wasn't ever a project," Grisman told Rolling Stone of their sessions together. "It was just getting together, and it turned out that every time we got together we recorded stuff. Jerry and I didn't really spend a whole lot of time together over the course of thirty years, but I think it was quality time."
Among the twelve songs on World are several Garcia fans have never heard him perform, including covers of Bob Dylan's "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest," James Brown's "It'll Go Crazy" and Merle Travis' mining classic "Dark as a Dungeon." Garcia also takes another turn with Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel #9," which he'd tackled on his 1988 live album, Almost Acoustic.
The sessions feature Garcia and Grisman backed by members of Grisman's nimble David Grisman Quintet (bassist Jim Kerwin, fiddler Joe Craven and flautist Matt Eakle), which equally mines the jazz and bluegrass genres. Kahn, whom Garcia often enlisted for his unplugged projects throughout the years, also makes an appearance.
Grisman has been diligent to produce the records with a sense of cohesion for each of the collaborative albums. The duo released the quietly charming Jerry Garcia/David Grisman (featuring an array of songs by the Grateful Dead, B.B. King, Irving Berlin and others) in 1991, followed by a family album, Not for Kids Only, two years later. Since Garcia's death, Acoustic Disc released the collection of old folk songs Shady Grove in 1996, their jazz excursion So What in 1998, and The Pizza Tapes, a collaboration with bluegrass great Tony Rice in 2000. And last year, the label released Grateful Dawg, the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name about the Garcia/Grisman partnership shot by Grisman's daughter Gillian.
"It gets to me a little, going back through the recordings," Grisman said. "But basically, getting together with Jerry was mostly about having fun. I've developed quite a few recording projects out of our sessions, and there's still more good stuff left. A lot of people have asked me if it's painful. To me, it's the opposite, because this is what Jerry was really about."