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Old and in the Way becomes Old and in the Gray

By Rick Bell, November 2002

Page 2...

Pedersen recalls that even though Garcia was picking a banjo when they first met, he was into fiddle tunes.

"We had different styles; we'd play together from time to time, but it was like two piano players. We both approached it differently."

Nonetheless, Pedersen was a huge fan of Garcia's.

"Jerry was a good banjo player," says Pedersen, who along with Chris Hillman founded the Desert Rose Band in the late 1980s. "He had a bouncy style; it was different, but he came from a different place."

Pedersen said he added his two cents to Old & in the Gray, as everyone brought ideas to the table for the new record. Pedersen sings lead vocals on the first part of Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty" and also takes lead on "Let Those Brown Eyes Smile at Me" and on "Childish Love."

With all that talent in the studio, much of the recording was done live, Pedersen says.

"We would take three or four stabs at each tune and take the best one," he says. "That's the way Dave works."

Pedersen never saw Old & in the Way live - the band only performed 18 club dates, 4 auditorium concerts, 3 school performances, a radio show and a bluegrass festival. But he appreciated their music.

"They each came from diverse backgrounds, so the bluegrass was kind of loose," Pedersen says. "I'm kind of a note nazi, but the music had a great feel to it. It appealed to the second-generation Dead audience. It was from the hip, but it was also from the heart."

For Rowan's part, there was never any hesitation to rekindle Old & in the Way, even after Garcia had died.

"I was always prodding Dave, 'When we going to do it?'" he says.

It's been almost 30 years - Old & in the Gray's release date coincided with Old & in the Way's original live recordings in October 1973 - and it's just a new chapter in the band's evolution, he says.

"Gray is the next move," he says. "The first Old was a move. We just didn't have a next move at the time."

Ironically, Old & in the Way's recordings took place the same year the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," which also featured Clements on fiddle and is still considered as one of the historic bluegrass albums of all time. The original album was re-released earlier this year, along with a third volume that came out this fall.

It's a point not entirely lost on Rowan.

"Old & in the Way opened it up," he says. "The Dirt Band brought out all those Grand Ole Opry stars like Roy Acuff. It's like hitching a ride on a comet. If you can play that naked music with all its realities, it's a very good feeling."

"When Old first came out, we were na•ve fools. It was on the pop charts. We probably could have done more with it, but we did it because we really loved it. It was a project where we didn't have to worry about marketing it."

A fun, loose collaboration it may have been. Yet it seemed to mean a little more for Grisman, Rowan says.

"With Dave, the next move was to reunite with Garcia," he says. "It gave him recognition, which was something he craved."

Ultimately Grisman and Garcia reunited in the early '90s for several albums on Grisman's Acoustic Disc label. It also spawned last year's documentary "Grateful Dawg."

Shortly after Garcia's death, Grisman released "That High Lonesome Sound," a 14-song collection of previously unreleased live Old & in the Way songs. The following year Acoustic Disc issued another collection, "Old & in the Way: Breakdown," 18 more live songs culled from the same San Francisco club dates that provided the tapes for initial release.

Grisman was quoted in another interview how their performances and recordings in the 1990s came about:

"Jerry came over to my house one day, checked out my home studio and asked me, 'How about putting out some more Old and in the Way tapes?' I said, 'Frankly Jerry, I'd rather see us put out something new, we can put out old tapes when we're in wheelchairs.'"

As well as being artistically successful, the Garcia and Grisman partnership also gave Grisman the finances needed to continue his Acoustic Disc record label. As Grisman noted in another interview, "Jerry kind of takes care of the profitable part."

Rowan sympathizes with that aspect as well.

"Dave has an entire band to support and a record label to run," Rowan says. "Old & in the Gray might cause a conflict for him with his quintet. We'll hopefully have our own shot, but it's getting to an agreement to do something with it."

"I hope we do some shows. But we won't just be a cover band for Old & in the Way. We don't want to do that. We'll peel back the skin and get to the meat."

By Jon Johnson
To most of the world, Douglas Green is better known as Ranger Doug, Idol of American Youth and the yodeling guitarist of cowboy trio (sometimes a quartet) Riders in the Sky. Longtime readers of country music journalism, however, know him as a first-rate scholar of singing cowboy films and records, even predating the formation of his band in late 1977.

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