FOLK/BLUEGRASS. You can read the story of many an aspiring artist honing their early craft on the shoulders of giants. For Jerry Garcia and the Hart Valley Drifters, that story begins on the Stanford campus with this record of folk songs made in 1962 in KZSU’s very own Studio A. These young artists (Nelson was 19, Garcia 20, Hunter 21) bring discipline and talent to a set of standard folk numbers. Garcia manages the banjo despite lacking his ax-shorn middle plucking finger, while Nelson demonstrates considerable early skill on guitar. For Garcia, a comparison to Old & in the Way reveals that he had not yet in ‘62 addressed the stylistic use of dynamics--in voice or in string. I would mark this as his largest improvement from this performance; one can tell that his impressive drive had little room to improve from this time with the Hart Valley Drifters. It seems that the group was most comfortable at a standard tempo that pervades most of the recording. I also hear an exceptional loyalty to Flatt & Scruggs. NO FCC issues.
1. (1:13) KZSU Announcer introduces each of the band members
2. (3:46) Upbeat rendition. Garcia breaks out several times to show his banjo prowess.
3. (1:29) Instrumental. Upbeat. Bit more of a jam. Wonderful display of talent in solos with hints of non-traditional experimentation. Take a listen to what Garcia does with Scruggs’s banjo licks!
4. (2:16) Upbeat. Feels hurried. Less clappable than the Old and in the Way version. This early version also reveals less-developed use of stylistic dynamics.
5. (2:10) Bringing this record’s upward push to the beat of this old gospel classic. Focus is more on instrumentation than on vocals.
6. (2:00) Breaks taken by all but Hunter. Slightly slower than Flatt & Scruggs, but no less impressive.
7. (2:42) A traditional number performed at fast tempo here. Hunter demands more attention for the bass than you might hear from others, such as The Tony Rice Unit.
8. (2:19) Standard take on a standard number.
9. (1:18) Garcia and Nelson trading solos. Garcia chooses to be far more melodic than Ralph Stanley would have it, lending strong complement to Nelson’s picking.
10. (2:42) A little slower. Vocals are not in key. Not even Garcia seems in his element.
11. (1:25) Faster. Phenomenal performances by Garcia and Nelson. Seriously rivals Flatt & Scruggs. Instrumental.
12. (3:09) A lonesome, medium-speed waltz. Hunter holds a strong bass. Performed like Flatt & Scruggs.
13. (2:44) Frankel is out of tune, adding an almost comical touch.
14. (1:39) Slower than Doc Watson.
15. (4:12) Garcia showing less stylistic vocal loyalty to old time than he did on a June ‘62 recording with Sleepy Hollow Stompers.
16. (3:54) Slower. A more swung rendition with a lighter tone than the Dock Boggs classic.
17. (3:37) Noticeably slower, looser, and more somber than Doc Watson’s versions.