David Grisman's 'Dawg Music'

Feature excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

With the David Grisman Quintet's first new recording in seven years, the pioneering acoustic string-music veteran has really gone to the dawgs.

"Dawgnation," which mandolinist Grisman's San Rafael, Calif.-based Acoustic Disc label issues June 25, takes its name from the "Dawg" nickname that Jerry Garcia gave him in 1973. Back then, Grisman, banjoist Garcia, guitarist Peter Rowan, fiddler Vassar Clements, and late bassist John Kahn were the legendary bluegrass band Old & In the Way. "Dawg music" soon became the definition of Grisman's trademark blend of bluegrass, jazz, and other traditional acoustic music genres.

"When I made the first Quintet record of original music and people asked, 'What is this music?' I figured if I had a generic term, I wouldn't have to describe it," explains Grisman, whose friendship with Garcia was documented last year by his daughter, director Gillian Grisman, in Sony Pictures Classics' Grateful Dawg. "Of course they asked, 'What is dawg music?' So it didn't really work. But now a lot of people know what dawg music is."

They also know its canine connotations. Indeed, the "Dawgnation" cover graphic and CD booklet features more than 100 images of dogs, submitted by Grisman's legion of fans via Acoustic Disc's Web site.

"I latched on to the title from the tune 'Dawgnation,' which I wrote one day when Jerry was over and recorded right away," Grisman says, noting that the track then appeared on 1996's three-disc "DGQ 20" retrospective of unreleased material covering the Quintet's then 20-year span. "But I've been playing it, and people love it -- so I thought it would be a good title for the new CD."

Grisman originally planned to record a Quintet disc in 2000, to be called "Y2K9." But those plans were shelved when longtime bassist Jim Kerwin's wife died, and he didn't return to the band until six months ago. "He's been with me 16 years -- longer than anybody," says Grisman, whose Quintet also includes multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven, flutist Matt Eakle, and guitarist Enrique Coria. Reviving the project, Grisman chose to open the set with "Slade," a 4-year-old tune written to honor his late friend Charles Sawtelle of Hot Rize. The rest of the disc, besides the title track, is new material for the Quintet.

The Quintet will be on the road this summer headlining the JamGrass 2002 tour, which also features the Sam Bush Band, Peter Rowan & Tony Rice, the John Cowan Band, and the Yonder Mountain String Band. The tour kicks off July 17 in Portsmouth, Va., and will conclude Sept. 22 in Wantagh, N.Y. The festival is being preceded by Quintet performances that started with a June 22 album-release party at the annual Telluride (Colo.) Festival.

Excerpted from the June 29, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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