This week’s recommendation: the Grateful Dead live album, Reckoning (listen on Rdio or Spotify). Standout track: “Jack-A-Roe”, their version of a 19th-century tale of cross-dressing and women in the military.
Now, if you don’t really know the Dead, chances are you think of them as one of two things: the band behind the “drivin’ that train, high on cocaine” song (aka “Truckin'”), or a jam band famous for half-hour psychedelic instrumentals in the middle of their concerts. And, okay, they were both of those things. But one overplayed radio hit and concert improv stamina do not a thirty-plus year career make. They also recorded lots (and I do mean lots) of other music, much of it just good, folk-inspired, almost-country-but-in-a-good-way, rock songs.
My recommendation here is the 1981 live album Reckoning. It doesn’t include either of their (in)famous jam tracks, though there is a 9-minute song, “To Lay Me Down” (a lovely snoozer that you are hereby permitted to skip). The rest is solid folk-rock, great for road trips and backyard barbecues.