Boris Garcia

Mother's Finest

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This Philadelphia band's name, Boris Garcia, references Jerry Garcia, and while it is not specifically a Grateful Dead tribute project, its music is very much in the style of one of the Dead's manifestations, the bluegrass-leaning folk-rock unveiled on Workingman's Dead and American Beauty that was carried forward by spin-off group the New Riders of the Purple Sage. This was one of the Dead's most popular phases, and it was rooted genuinely in Garcia's early love of bluegrass, which he continued to pursue in such other spin-offs as Old & in the Way. Boris Garcia formed on a whim for the purpose of recording its debut album, Boris Garcia's Family Reunion, but a year later the band has played out quite a lot and become a more cohesive unit as a result. There are three singer/songwriters in the group, Bob Stirner, Jeff Otto, and Gene Smith, and while all of the music, with its acoustic guitar/mandolin interplay and galloping rhythm section, recalls the Workingman's Dead sound, when Otto comes to the microphone for his songs "Other Shoe," "Nine Fine Wines," "Neverland," and "She's No Happier" he sings in a light tenor that unmistakably recalls Jerry Garcia, making the Grateful Dead connection even more explicit. The longest song, "Change of Heart," just touches the five-minute mark, so the jamming is held in check for the most part, the better to emphasize the songs and their lyrics, which concern the ups and downs of love, but also have a distinctly neo-hippie tone. In "She's No Happier" and Stirner's "Higher Love," phonies and social climbers are pilloried, and the album ends on a sober note with Smith's "Radio Song," which takes on media manipulation, pollution, and gun violence. Most of the disc, however, is in a lighter vein, and the playing is always stellar.

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