Emory Joseph is a born entertainer. Not only that, but he is also a fine songwriter, as evident in his 2003 epic Labor and Spirits. On this outing, however, Joseph puts down the pen long enough to pay tribute to a pair or true musical legends, the great Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, the songwriting team who stoked the engine on the Grateful Dead train.
Joseph put some serious time end energy into this project. We spoke about the album three years ago, when he was recording the first demos for it. But he wanted to make the best record he could. Emory is quite the perfectionist, and it shines through in his work.
Fennario flows with the hippie vibe, acoustic based feel of a Grateful Dead show. Great musicianship, primo song choices and Joseph’s own unmistakable tenor vocal prowess combine to create one fine tribute album.
Beginning with a first rate cover of “Sugaree,” Emory carries us through twelve classic Dead songs, including apt renditions of “Ramble On Rose,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Brown Eyed Women” (a tune that even boasts David Grisman on mandolin) and perhaps my favorite, a superior version of “It Must Have Been The Roses.” The songs ebb and flow and take you on a musical journey to the center of your mind. A place where “Tennessee Jed” co-exists side by side with “Black Peter” and “Loose Lucy.” A very special place that I haven’t visited in far too many years, but am so very happy to be seeing again, through rainbow color glasses.
From the timbers of Fennario straight through the looking glass and into your head, Emory Joseph delivers an album of no small achievement. A wonderful tribute to Jerry and Robert. A musical gem.
-Michael Buffalo Smith