Jerry’s Smilin’: Guitar Tribute to the Grateful Dead – Damià Timoner – ZOHO

by | Nov 19, 2020 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Damià Timoner (solo acoustic nylon-string guitar) – Jerry’s Smilin’: Guitar Tribute to the Grateful Dead – [TrackList follows] – ZOHO [dist. by Music Video Distributors], 50:52 [11/9/20] ****:

Spain-based musician Damià Timoner’s solo acoustic guitar tribute, Jerry’s Smilin’, is a must-hear for both Grateful Dead fans and those who like instrumental nylon-string guitar. Timoner takes 10 Dead tunes and emphasizes sustaining melodies and provides inventive and enjoyable interpretations. Most people who have a passing interest in the Grateful Dead may mistakenly think the group was just a jam band. Deadheads know the Dead had strong melodies and themes in much of their repertoire. That’s the focus of Timoner’s 52-minute album. The intimate, beautiful recording also presents assorted aspects of the Dead’s songwriting, comprising songs penned by various bandmembers and from different eras of the group’s career. While there are some familiar numbers, listeners will also find some tracks which go deeper into the Dead’s catalogue.

Timoner commences with the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter compositions “Brown-Eyed Women” and “Ramble on Rose,” which are both inspired by versions on the Dead’s triple-album live release Europe ‘72. Timoner changes the key of “Brown-Eyed Women,” which gives Timoner extra liberty and breadth not found in the original; and lets him deliver ruminative inflections which hint at the characterization of the older man at the heart of the song’s lyrics. For “Ramble on Rose” Timoner goes down to a 6th (E) guitar string to furnish some depth on the lower bass parts and adds supplementary timbre which escalates the tale of a woman who travels from place to place.

Portrait Damian Timoner

Damiàn Timoner

A tune about another person who was always on the go is John Barlow and Bob Weir’s “Cassidy,” a homage to Neil Cassidy, the hero of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road and compatriot to novelist Ken Kesey, who was important to the Grateful Dead’s early history. “Cassidy” was introduced on Weir’s 1972 solo outing, Ace, but Timoner tailored his performance via the adaptation on 1981’s live Dead album Reckoning. Timoner drops to the 6th and 5th (A) strings for more bass penetration and also utilizes a capo for harmonious capacity and improvisational autonomy. The hopeful “Built to Last” is based on the title track from the group’s final, 1989 studio effort. Timoner’s tone is buoyant and confident. Timoner also does a fine job with another cut from Built to Last, John Perry Barlow and Brent Mydland’s little-known “Blow Away.” The Dead’s rendering is a riff-laden electric rock tune. Timoner slows the pacing and concentrates on the melodic core.

The outstanding centerpiece is the nine-minute medley, “Lady with a Fan/Terrapin Station,” which are part of a seven-movement suite on 1977’s Terrapin Station. Timoner keeps the original key and impeccably traces up and down his fretboard with tints of Americana folk and jazz. Timoner finishes with three gems. First is the short, bluesy “Operator,” written by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, which comes from the Dead’s 1971 record American Beauty. Then there’s the piece which made Timoner a Dead devotee, “Dark Star.” Timoner’s nearly six-minute reading is structured on the Dead’s “Dark Star” debut, a 1969 live translation taped at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Timoner’s soloing during the middle section is superb. Timoner closes with “Touch of Grey,” the radio hit from 1987’s In the Dark, which included a memorable MTV video.

Portrait Jerry GarciaJerry’s Smilin’ is a wonderful listening experience. Timoner recorded his music at Phonos Audio in Manacor/Mallorca, Spain. Juanjo Tur did ideal work taping, mixing, and mastering and captures all of the naturalness of Timoner’s nylon-string acoustic guitar; every detail and nuance of his fretboard; and the full resonance of his performances. 

Brown-Eyed Women
Ramble on Rose
Built to Last
Lady with a Fan/Terrapin Station
Blow Away
Dark Star
Touch of Grey

—Doug Simpson

More information at label’s website.

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