Friday, May 15, 2009

I Find Myself Listening To Phil Lately

Phil Lesh
Originally uploaded by Laughing Squid
I'm a deadhead. I got on the bus 27 years ago and have been listening to the Grateful Dead ever since; sometimes more and sometimes less.

When I was a young man, I tended to listen with my focus on Jerry Garcia. He played lead guitar and, as a guitar player, I wanted to study him. Then I started to pay closer attention to Bobby Weir, the young "rock star" and rhythm guitarist. I liked his style and songwriting and I began to see how complex and musically cool was his playing.

Some years back, I became a drummer. I had married a music therapist and through her started to learn more about the healing power of music. I read books on the subject written by Dead drummer Mickey Hart. I began to play in drum circles. As I listened to the band I heard more of the two drummers, Mickey and Billy Kreutzmann.

Of late, I find myself listing to Phil Lesh, Dead bassist. I'd played some bass in college, and had always kept an ear on Phil. But it seems lately that his playing is really coming through. It may be the fact that my eldest child plays bass. And it may have something to do with the increased amount of high-quality Dead live recordings I am able to listen to via the Sirius/XM channel The Dead.

My car stereo is pretty good, and the digital satellite signal is pure, so I am physically able to hear more of the bass range. And what I hear Phil Lesh play is marvelous. This holds true for the full historical span of the Grateful Dead, from mid-60s recordings of the band jamming behind blues preacher Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan through the jazzy 70s, the rock-n-roll 80s and 90s and today, as the band is reborn.

Don't get me wrong. I still listen to the whole wonderful beast that is the Dead playing live. But I am particularly enjoying Phil Lesh right now.

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