Donna Jean Godchaux Band with Jeff Mattson: Back Around
It is no secret that many Deadheads did not appreciate the vocal parts that Donna Jean Godchaux lent to the Grateful Dead in the ‘70s, but let’s forget for a minute that she was ever in that band. Instead, time-warp back even earlier to Muscle Shoals, Ala., where the teenaged Donna Thatcher cut her teeth singing background for the likes of Elvis Presley and Percy Sledge. (She’s on the timeless “When a Man Loves a Woman.”) That confident powerhouse is the Donna Jean Godchaux that’s showcased primarily on Back Around, a soulful set of original songs matched with well-chosen covers (Wilson Pickett, Stones, Beatles, Youngbloods and, yes, the Dead’s “Crazy Fingers”). Godchaux, aided by guitarist Jeff Mattson and a solid band augmented by the Muscle Shoals Horns, is alternately gutsy-raw and tender-romantic, and—this is important—always in control. Whatever your thoughts are on those heady days 40 years ago days, Back Around is the work of a very captivating, well-rounded singer.