Jerry Garcia (from the album GarciaLive Volume Six: July 5, 1973 Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders) - Jerry Garcia’s vocal is a dialogue, more of a conversation, on his version of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. His story is a telling of events, one more lost Southern soul carrying the news of a land losing the battle with its Northern sibling. Like everything he touched musically, Jerry Garcia becomes part of the song he offers on the track, found on GarciaLive, Volume 6, the most recent release from the archival series of live performances. Joining Jerry on stage at The Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, CA on July 5, 1973 was Merl Saunders. Merl’s influence on the music of Jerry Garcia went much further than the band the pair fronted, captured live five days later in a previously released album, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders: Live at Keystone. Jerry began working with Merl Saunders in 1971, and credits the keyboardist with teaching and inspiring The Grateful Dead guitarist to interpret cover versions. Garcia’s abilities to find his own place within the songs of other artists became a trademark for both his band and side projects. Additionally, Merl Saunder’s Hammond B-3 was a perfect union with Jerry as they led the band, with Bill Vitt on drums and John Kahn on bass, into a flowing jam of Rock, Blues, Jazz, and R&B, signatures became engrained within Jerry’s playing in the years that followed. During the times of the GarcieLive, Volume 6 recording, The Grateful Dead were at a pinnacle, rising from the insular San Francisco music scene to a worldwide stage that embraced the band, as well as becoming one of the centerpoints for a future jam band scene. The Grateful Dead would head east a few weeks after Jerry’s sets with Merl Saunders to be a part of the largest one-day concert event in United States history on July 28, 1973. The event took place in Watkins Glen, New York, where they were joined in concert with The Band and Allman Brothers Band.
The three discs of GarciaLive Volume Six: July 5, 1973 – Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders accommodate long extended jams, with no one disc offering more than five tracks. Jerry and Merl put an easy West Coast sway into J.J. Cale’s Tulsa rhythms on album opener, “After Midnight”. Disc One nods to Soul and Blues as a Merl Saunders composition (“She’s Got Charisma”) sits alongside tunes from Lightnin’ Hopkins (“Someday Baby”) and Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup (“That’s Alright, Mama”). The playing stretches to eighteen minutes for another Merl Saunders cut, “The System”, with the keyboardists growling vocal riding on top of the bubbling rhythms. The album moves into free-form jazz as “Merl’s Tune” adds horn riffs as it extends into a jam named for their stage with “Lion’s Share Jam”. GarciaLive Volume Six: July 5, 1973 nods to Memphis as the band cradles the Don Nix/Dan Penn cut “Like a Road” with warm organ chords as Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders take on Soul and Motown classics with Smokey Robinson’s “I Second That Emotion”, The Drifters’ “Money Honey”, and Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).