Old & In The Way: Live at the Boarding House: The Complete Shows
Though the claim that Old & In The Way’s self-titled 1975 debut was once the best-selling bluegrass album in history is bogus—it never came close to Eric Weissberg’s 1973 chart-topping Deliverance soundtrack—Old & In The Way arguably did as much good for the genre as Deliverance did damage. While it was Peter Rowan’s sweet silvery holler and the quintet’s close dynamics that sold the Stinson Beach supergroup to audiences, it was Jerry Garcia’s presence that sold the band’s live LP to hippies, and—in turn—linked banjos to beardos forevermore. Mandolinist David Grisman’s Acoustic Oasis label now offers complete downloads of the two October 1973 shows at San Francisco’s Boarding House that yielded the group’s initial album, and they are every bit as magical and essential as the three separate releases previously drawn from the gigs. There’s plenty of olde-tyme nostalgia, but also the rare bluegrass comfortable in its own contemporary skin. The band animates Rowan’s pro-dope yodels like “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy” and “Panama Red” with suitably longhaired grace. Garcia sweetly croons the Stanley Brothers’ “Angel Band” and then-new Johnny Russell single “Catfish John,” but mostly lays back and adds reedy baritone vocals and delighted banjo rolls to the ensemble. The real stars, though, are the infinitely warm recordings themselves, courtesy of late Dead soundbeam-wrangler and one-time LSD chemist Owsley Stanley. Inside a tangible stereo field, the quintet’s instrumental mesh is every bit as blended as the harmonies—a high, lonesome wholeness forever haunting the hills of Marin.