While the idea of a live recording of jam-loving George Fetner and the Strays still seemed somewhat inevitable given their top-notch chops and excellent performance, “Merry Run Around” is a different and higher order.
Rather than just documenting the usual tunes of the funky, roots and heavy improvised rock band in front of a live audience, this album is instead taken from a live studio recorded for last year’s live version of Jerryfest. , the long-running annual Five Points festival that celebrates the work of the late guitarist / conductor / divine Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia. As such, this is both a not quite live record and a cover record.
Despite the challenge of playing another different improv group and dealing with the sterility of a live studio performance, it is still a task that only fits Fetner and his company. The band initially formed for a one-off performance at Jerryfest 2013, so they literally were born out of both a love for the material and their ability to take a seasoned approach.
And while they can never be as loose or trippy as a typical Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia band’s outing, the Strays instead lean on their strengths, making those tunes alternately funky, rock or more soul according to their impulses.
The “Touch of Gray” opener reaches new propulsive heights with the crisp guitar attack from Fetner and Anthony Charles. “This is what love will do to you” is more like something really out of Stax Records. And “Viola Lee Blues” gets a more muscular, bluesy read than what the Dead’s wandering trips tend to offer. Meanwhile, the more folk and bluegrassy intonations of Garcia and Weir fade, simply because they are not in the Strays wheelhouse.
The end goal, it always seems, is to tickle Deadheads’ taste buds with pleasure while smoothing out some of the rougher edges and just doing what the bunch can do. And while you might quibble with this approach, there’s no denying that it packs a mighty punch.
Take their interpretation of “They Love Each Other”, that’s where the album got its name. After establishing the song’s familiar groove, an icy saxophone solo pulls the tune into its center improv section, where Moses Andrews’ organ takes the audience to church before handing things over to Fetner for another. long six-string workout, then pull everything. back for a fainting conclusion. It’s both totally different from anything you might hear at a Dead concert and yet wonderfully soothing and familiar to fans and newcomers alike. KYLE PETERSEN
George Fetner and the Lost
20 August. 7 p.m. Free. Café Indah (outside). 2238 Sumter Street facebook.com/GFATStrays.