The second full-length collaborative effort between Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) and David Grisman (mandolin, mando-cello, tenor banjo, vocals) is arguably their most endearing as well. Just as its title suggests, Not for Kids Only (1993) is an album of folkie standards and traditional tunes that is -- as Grisman so eloquently depicts in his liner notes -- "our answer to 'Barney.'" The material chosen is comprised of songs they had undoubtedly encountered at one time or another during their respective careers, both of which were deeply rooted in the New Lost City Ramblers style of bluegrass, folk, and blues. The obvious kinship between the musicians radiates throughout every track as their moods alternate between light and silly "There Ain't No Bugs on Me" to the darker-edged "When First Unto This Country." The latter is a languid ballad highlighted by what is arguably Garcia's most emotive vocal in years. The same can be said of his acoustic guitar work throughout the project, which hearkens back nearly a decade-and-a-half to the Grateful Dead's 15th Anniversary "unplugged" shows in October of 1980. While Garcia and Grisman are undoubtedly the leads, they are sufficiently backed by various Grisman associates such as Joe Craven (percussion/fiddle), Matt Eakle (piccolo), Jim Kerwin (bass), and Jody Stecher (fiddle). One notable addition to the proceedings is percussionist extraordinaire Hal Blaine, who accompanies the duo in a variety of settings performing on everything from tambourine to Jew's harp. As subtlety is one of Blaine's fortes, his contributions are effortlessly integrated; especially on the cover of Elizabeth Cotten's folk standard "Freight Train" which also features Craven's trademark vocal (read: orally derived) percussion inflections. He provides a steady, chuggin' rhythm bed simulating the sound of a steam locomotive. One of the most endearing cuts is the comedic dialogue between Garcia and Grisman on "Arkansas Traveller." There is a palpable affection between the two as they quip and joke their way through this piece of affable homespun Americana. The entire disc could likewise be categorized in a similar manner, as it brings to life one of the truly original facets of the United States rich musical heritage.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer