Besides the exquisite and intricate, richly melodic playing, one of the things that may strike the informed listener as they weave dreamily through Damia Timoner’s Jerry’s Smilin’: A Guitar Tribute to the Grateful Dead is the year 1995. Is it any coincidence that the legend whose legacy he’s celebrating passed away the same year the Mallorca based classical guitarist released his debut album Guitar Words – Paraules de Guitarra – L’Espera?
Either way, this exquisite ten track solo acoustic collection is an inspiring way to mark the quarter century for both. As per co-producer Kabir Sehgal’s detailed liner notes, Timoner’s intention was not merely to create a window for new generations to discover the enduring hypnotic impact of Garcia and The Dead via his thoughtful re-imaginings – but to do so by featuring piece by different composers who populated the band over the years.
He taps into the unique partnership of Garcia and poet-lyricist in residence Robert Hunter via easy flowing, lyrical renditions of “Brown Eyed Women,” “Ramble on Rose,” “Built to Last,” “Loser,” “Touch of Grey” and an expansive, slightly more rambunctious roll through a medley of “Lady with a Fan/Terrapin Station” (which Garcia and Hunter wrote with Brent Mydland). While those tracks from the emotional core of the set, Timoner also pays homage to the brilliant craftsmanship of Bob Weir/John Barlow with the whimsical “Cassidy” and the collaboration of Mydland and Barlow on the snappy yet seductive “Blow Away.”
For the technically inclined, another impactful element of Timoner’s dynamic tribute is the way he changes keys on his arrangements to allow for a more open, spacious approach and to add more emotional depth. For true Deadheads, nothing will ever replace the originals in their ears and hearts – but the Garcia/Dead legacy is in great hands, literally on a collection which will surely get Jerry Smilin’ wherever he may be.