Zen Tricksters

Shaking Off the Weirdness

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Much of the Zen Tricksters' vocabulary -- both musical and literal -- is drawn from the musical universe of the Grateful Dead. Considering the fact that the Tricksters have spent the better part of the last 20 years as one of the country's premier Dead cover bands, that's not a surprise. What is surprising, however, is how effective their original material it is. Sure, much of the band's sound is firmly in the mode of their main influence, but it is delightfully free of rhythmic lumber of the Dead. Indeed, the Tricksters seem to have taken the lessons of the Dead's best periods of the late '60s and early '70s and stripped them down. "The One" sounds like a jazzier version of a Jerry Garcia ballad from American Beauty, while "Talk of the Town" hones in on jazzier elements. The band's jamming is affable and comfortable, sticking mostly to acoustic sounds. Refreshingly, the Tricksters pull it off without sounding like a tribute act.

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