Sam Grisman Project: Temple Cabin Sessions
Sam Grisman knows the weight of his last name. As the son of Dawg music originator and Jerry Garcia collaborator David Grisman, the younger, bass-playing Grisman recognizes his role in carrying on the family business. With Sam Grisman Project’s debut release, Temple Cabin Sessions, Grisman leans into his legacy, offering refreshing takes on a wide-ranging mix of songs from the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, and, of course, Garcia/Grisman canons. Like dad, Grisman surrounds himself with talented players who elevate the music from a cover band to something more akin to a jazz outfit playing standards while slyly subverting expectations. (You won’t hear any Garcia-style Mu-Tron, for example.) “Stealin,” a jug band song from the ‘20s recorded by Garcia and Dawg, gets a high-energy New Orleans makeover with a cajun flair courtesy of singer Ric Robertson, a multi-instrumentalist who plays keys here. Tyler Neal adds a slide guitar solo that would make Derek Trucks proud while Alex Hargreaves, the newest member of Billy Strings’ group, lays down some fiery fiddle runs. Alternating between electrified rock songs with drums and single mic-style acoustic numbers, Temple Cabin Sessions showcases Sam Grisman Project’s range and loose, freewheeling style. Nothing feels forced or overwrought; even “Friend of the Devil,” a song Grisman’s dad played with the Dead in the studio, gets a fresh approach, adding the final verse Robert Hunter would often play live. Grisman himself takes a lead vocal on that Easter egg, his gravely, surprisingly weathered voice adding weight: “You can borrow from the Devil/ You can borrow from a friend/ But the Devil’ll give you twenty/ When your friend got only ten.” “Catfish John” blends reggae with bluegrass; “Shady Grove” gets the most traditional interpretation on the album; and “Peggy-O” remains gorgeous, simple and heartfelt. With Temple Cabin Sessions, it’s clear the Grisman legacy is in good hands with Sam at the helm.