Grateful Deadication 2 (Blue Note)

Dave McMurray

Released April 5, 2023

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




Saxophonist Dave McMurray returns with Grateful Deadication 2, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2021 tribute album which once again finds the saxophonist reimagining the songs of the Grateful Dead with his gritty and soulful Detroit sound joined by special guests including Oteil Burbridge, Bob James, Jamey Johnson, Greg Leisz, and Don Was. Watch the official video for the lead single “Scarlet Begonias” featuring vocals by Burbridge.

Grateful Deadication 2 is a 9-song set that offers up Dead favorites and deep cuts including “Truckin’,” “China Cat Sunflower,” and “To Lay Me Down.” Returning to the fold are McMurray’s Detroit associates guitarist Wayne Gerard, keyboardist Maurice O’Neal, pianist Luis Resto, bassist Ibrahim Jones drummer Jeff Canady, and percussionist Larry Fratangelo.

“My most recent journey into Grateful Dead world began when my Detroit band and I traveled to Clubhouse Studios in Upstate New York,” says McMurray. “It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by lots of open land, and filled with vintage equipment. With master engineer Elliot Scheiner in tow, and four days and nights with only creating music on the brain, the vibe was just right. The result is a dark, sparse, emotional ride into the minds of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and the Grateful Dead… Detroit style.”

Released in 2021, Grateful Deadication was an album as vibrant as it was unexpected. Highlights of the set included the appearance of Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir with vocalist Bettye LaVette on a powerful remake of “Loser,” and an expansive version of “Dark Star” which The New York Times wrote “channels the epically trippy M.O. of a Dead performance… a coolly grooving section opens up, and the saxophonist dishes out a solo that’s laced with greasy Motor City attitude but still takes its time, as if to bask in the California sun.”

Reflecting upon when he first heard the Grateful Dead, McMurray says “The long-form, odd measures and complex chords of the music hooked me immediately. I noticed the songs had great melodies yet held the openness of Miles Davis’ Electric Period. The music was catchy, psychedelic, raw, with the idea that nobody solos/everybody solos—akin to Weather Report. The more I listened, the more I knew these songs would eventually become a vehicle for my jazz expression.”

During the heyday of the Dead’s tireless touring, McMurray was on the road himself, joining now-Blue Note president Don Was in the uncategorizable Was (Not Was) beginning in 1981. McMurray has performed with a stunning roster of legendary musicians, including B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson, KEM, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Geri Allen and Bob James.

In 2018 McMurray joined Don Was for an all-star set at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. The performance featured a surprise appearance by Weir, who had recently enlisted Was and drummer Jay Lane for his new band Wolf Bros, including a rendition of Dead classic “Days Between.”

Grateful Deadication 2 is not only another heartfelt celebration of the Grateful Dead’s brilliant songcraft, but the imagination and soul evident throughout the album exemplify the wide range of McMurray’s influences – from jazz, pop, rock, soul, reggae, R&B, gospel and beyond.

Track Listing:

1. Playing in the Band (Mickey Hart / Robert Hunter / Bob Weir) 7:11

2. China Cat Sunflower (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter) 7: 52

3. Bird Song (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter) 8:57

4. To Lay Me Down featuring Jamey Johnson (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter) 8:32

5. Truckin’ (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter / Phil Lesh / Bob Weir) 6:16

6. The Other One feat. Bob James (Bill Kreutzmann / Bob Weir) 8:55

7. If I Had the World to Give feat. Bob James (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter) 4:28

8. Scarlet Begonias feat. Oteil Burbridge (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter) 5:48

9. Crazy Fingers (Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter) 7:08


Dave McMurray: saxophone (1–10), flute, (2, 3), percussion (5)

Bob James: acoustic piano, (6, 7)

Ibrahim Jones: Don Was, bass

Jeff Canady: drums

Maurice O’Neal: piano, B-3 organ, keyboards, pennywhistle

Wayne Gerard: guitar

Larry Fratangelo: percussion

Luis Resto: keyboards

Larry Leisz: pedal steel (4)

Larry Campbell: acoustic guitar (4)

Jamey Johnson: vocals, acoustic guitar (4)

Oteil Burbridge: vocals (8)

Herschel Boone: vocal production

Producer: Don Was

Engineer: Mathew Scheiner

Assistant Engineer: Gillian Pelkonen

Mixing: Elliot Scheiner

Mastering: Darcy Proper

Photography: Christopher Wilson

Painting Photography: Keith McLenon


Dave McMurray, both literally and figuratively, plays on the name Grateful Deadication 2, a second offering to the iconic group, with tuneful moments from guest performers Bob James, Oteil Burbridge and Jamey Johnson. The pairing was particularly effective on “If I Had The World To Give,” where a spiritual aura prevailed between McMurray and James. Of course, their blend is no surprise since they’ve been funking together for years. It was a tender ballad in contrast to the exuberance and vibrancy that exuded on “Playing In The Band,” “Truckin’” and “Crazy Fingers.” There was a delightful lull also on “To Lay Me Down,” and Jamey Johnson’s voice took on a prayer-like quality against Don Was’ acoustic bass. Drummer Jeff Canady lent a crafty pickup on “The Other One,” emphasizing the changing rhythms as they shifted from a density of sound to the lop of wagon wheels. Dead lovers are sure to shiver in memory when hearing Burbridge’s “Scarlet Begonias.” Whether on saxophone or flute, McMurray has total command of the instrument, and a full panoply of sound emerges beautifully on “Bird Song.”

Overall, the collaboration here is artfully and memorably calibrated, and if there’s a sonic texture to the recording it’s Garcia’s ghost and Wayne Gerard’s guitar: He seems to possess an intuitive feel for the harmonic complexities.

Herb Boyd (DownBeat)