Grateful Dead tributaries Dead Ringers made their recorded debut with this live album. The track listing for the self-titled collection reads like many an actual Dead set list, balancing compositions from that band's extensive songbook with a handful of Bob Dylan covers, even throwing in the odd traditional or country blues tune for good measure (and to show you where their roots lie). It's not as if these folks don't have real connections with the Dead, either, as many of the players are a part of the band's extended family. Tom Constanten served as their keyboard player in the late '60s/early '70s, while David Nelson and Barry Flast have both played prominent roles in Dead-related acts. Indeed, Nelson was a member of the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band during the late '80s, which may be the closest comparison to Dead Ringers. The band warms up on the more traditional, acoustic material, interspersing the Dead's "Mountains of the Moon" and "Cumberland Blues" between songs like the traditional "Deep Elem Blues" and Mississippi John Hurt's "Slidin' Delta." They never drift too far from the songs at hand, proving that, while the Dead and their ilk are best known for their astral-tinged improvisations, they can also excel in a straightforward, acoustic setting as well. Midway through, the group strap on electric instruments, but the results still steer closer to folksy rock rave-ups on songs like "Deal" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece" then psychedelic flights. The notable exception is an unearthing of crowd favorite "Dark Star." The vocal performances are occasionally lacking, but, otherwise, this is a solid, if relaxed, set of live near-Dead.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush