Old & In the Way

Live at the Boarding House: The Complete Shows

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The first Old & In the Way release, recorded in 1973 and released in 1975, has for some time lay claim to being best-selling bluegrass recording of all time. The main reason for that, of course, was the presence of Jerry Garcia on banjo and vocals, although each of the bandmembers -- Vassar Clements on fiddle, David Grisman on mandolin and vocals, Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals, and John Kahn on bass -- was also a virtuoso. Although OAITW was able to handle a traditional bluegrass number -- vocal or instrumental -- as well as anyone, the musicians brought a jam band sensibility and rock attitude to the proceedings, extending the instrumental segments with improvisations, something alien to bluegrass up to that point. By doing so, the quintet pretty much invented the concept of progressive bluegrass, taking the music even further from its starting point than the New Grass Revival had the year before while simultaneously paying homage to its founders. The original Old & In the Way album, released on the Grateful Dead's Round Records label and reissued a few times subsequently, was recorded on October 8, 1973 at San Francisco's Boarding House club. It only included ten tracks from the two shows played that night though, and now, via a spinoff of Grisman's Acoustic Disc label, both sets are available in what is claimed to be their entirety on two CDs. "Claimed" to be because there remains one mysterious omission: the original 1973 album included the Jack Bonus-penned "The Hobo Song," which does not turn up on the new double-discer, meaning either that the 1973 album snatched it from another show or it's been omitted from the new release for some reason. The other nine tracks from the original are all accounted for, augmented by a superb collection of Rowan originals and cool covers ("The Great Pretender," "Orange Blossom Special," "Wild Horses"), all in pristine soundboard fidelity. This group was very short-lived, only playing about 30 gigs in all, but its influence and popularity remain strong among both Deadheads and bluegrass aficionados. This collection is about as definitive an OAITW release as there will ever be.

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