Q: When is a Grateful Dead record not a Grateful Dead record? A: When it’s a Robert Hunter solo album.
Hunter is, of course, a Dead lyricist of longstanding being responsible for many of their best-loved songs and the presence of several key members (Garcia, Hart, the Godchauxs), not to mention distinctive San Francisco graphic artist Rick Griffin who designed the cover, ensures this 18th century piratical concept Lp has the look and feel of an ersatz Grateful Dead album, albeit one with a pronounced Folk/C&W vibe and most traces of psychedelic mischievousness removed. Vocals were never the Dead’s strong suit and so, as with his employers, Hunter’s Dylanesque tenor (once deepening to baritone) shakes and cracks whenever tested. Though I’ve got at least two Dead albums and seen them a couple of times (and even Bob Weir’s RatDog once), I’m no DeadHead; still, this is an affecting album released on the Grateful Dead Records solo record subsidiary label, made with care and attention that I was happy to thrift.