During the 20-month hiatus that the Grateful Dead took from the road, lead guitarist Jerry Garcia began fronting and touring with one of the premier cover bands of the time. Don't Let Go captures this powerhouse rhythm section in the intimate confines of San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre only a few weeks prior to the Dead's resuscitation. This all-star incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band includes Dead members Keith Godchaux on piano and Donna Jean Godchaux on vocals. Since the late '50s, Bay area bassist John Kahn had been performing with the likes of blues legends John Lee Hooker, Michael Bloomfield, and Nick Gravenites. Kahn remained with the band until they disbanded following Garcia's death in August of 1995. Ron Tutt, while perhaps best remembered as Elvis Presley's favorite drummer, has also performed on more Top 40 singles and albums than almost any other drummer -- the notable exception being Hal Blaine. This band is about infectious rhythms and soul. Garcia plays with an energy and freedom of spirit which he rarely achieved during his final two decades with the Grateful Dead. This was likely due, at least in part, to the encyclopedic catalog of material -- drawing from such disparate sources as Allen Toussaint's "I'll Take a Melody," J.J. Cale's "After Midnight," and Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door." The band uses the structure of each song as a platform for their unique brand of instinctual aural acrobatics. The interplay amongst the instrumental quartet is best described as inspired telepathy. For instance, between the verses of Hank Ballard's "Tore Up Over You" the rhythmic pockets left by Garcia's incendiary guitar leads are filled in with a swing time precision and grace that harkens back to Benny Goodman or Duke Ellington's orchestra. Don't Let Go is highly recommended for the curious enthusiast as well as the insatiable Deadhead.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2