Friday, September 25, 2020

Bob Weir 2: Kingfish

While Jerry Garcia played with a whole pile of people in and out of the Dead during their live hiatus, Bob Weir stuck mostly with a local bar band called Kingfish, fronted by occasional Dead collaborator Matthew Kelly and New Riders of the Purple Sage refugee Dave Torbert. Their eponymous debut came out on the Dead’s Round Records imprint, which was reserved for side projects such as these.
The big shot got to kick off the album, and both “Lazy Lightning” and “Supplication” would find their ways into Dead sets in the future, sometimes in tandem, sometimes not. Bobby also sings lead on “Home To Dixie” and the Marty Robbins outlaw ballad “Big Iron”, later covered by Johnny Cash in the Rick Rubin era. He also anchors the reggae gospel reading of “Bye And Bye”, a Joseph Spence arrangement of the beloved hymn “We’ll Understand It Better By And By”.
In between, the success of the album depends on your tolerance of mid-‘70s country rock. We hear echoes of the Starland Vocal Band with a better guitar player. A few tracks stand out, such as “Asia Minor”, one of a few songs brought forward from an earlier Kelly-Torbert project, and sporting some of the skip-time elements of earlier Dead.
Bob would be back with the Dead soon enough, leaving Kingfish to endure on their own. Matt Kelly would reappear throughout the Dead story from time to time, but outside of this album and a couple live releases, the band’s connection is merely tangential.

Kingfish Kingfish (1976)—3

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