Many of the people who know David Gans for his work in radio don't know that he is also a talented singer/songwriter. The Bay Area resident is best known for hosting The Grateful Dead Hour, a nationally syndicated radio program that has been on the air since the 1980s. But Solo Acoustic demonstrates that Gans doesn't spend all of his time paying tribute to the Grateful Dead. An intimate collection of unaccompanied live performances from 1999 and 2000, Solo Acoustic isn't nearly as Dead-minded as some might assume -- overall, this CD is a folk-rock effort that has more in common with Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, and Richard Thompson than the Dead. Gans, an earthy storyteller, offers a few Dead covers, including "Terrapin Station," "Black Peter," and "Brokedown Palace." And he also turns his attention to Gram Parsons' "Return of the Grievous Angel" and Gillian Welch's alternative country gem "Tear My Stillhouse Down." But Gans' own songs are a high priority, and he shows how thoughtful a lyricist he can be on originals that range from "An American Family" (which describes a middle class family's struggle to make ends meet during a recession) to "Who Killed Uncle John?," a Dylanesque number that reflects on the death of Jerry Garcia. When all is said and done, Solo Acoustic is far from a Grateful Dead tribute album -- it acknowledges the Dead on occasion, but, ultimately, it offers a lot more acknowledgment of coffeehouse folk-rockers than Bay Area jam bands. In fact, one doesn't have to be a big Grateful Dead fan to appreciate Solo Acoustic, which proves that there is a lot more to Gans than The Grateful Dead Hour.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson