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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Phil Lesh Sessions

Ryan Adams and Phil Lesh first met and played together at the annual Jammy Awards in April of 2005. Along with the Cardinals, they played a medley of the Grateful Dead classics - "Wharf Rat" and "Bird Song", which were easily some of the major highlights of the evening's performances. What was planned to be a one off showing between the two, soon blossomed into several collaborations that would stretch over the course of a year, and a musical and personal bond that would last a lifetime.

Not long after the Jammy's, Ryan was invited to play in Phil Lesh's incredible touring band - Phil and Friends. Adams agreed and played five shows with the group, in July and December of 2005. During these gigs, Ryan sang lead vocals and played guitar on challenging Grateful Dead warhorses like "Dark Star", and "Terrapin Station"; as well as on songs from Adams' recently released Cold Roses album. Ryan eventually left the band to pursue his own songwriting, but occasionally Phil Lesh would randomly join Ryan Adams onstage to jam out an old Dead song. Still to this day, Phil Lesh continues to play a lot or Ryan Adams songs during his shows both with Phil and Friends and Further.
 "I love playing with Ryan because he takes me back to when the Grateful Dead were young, fearless, crazy and didn’t give a shit about what other people thought we should do.......I will also say with no hesitation that Jerry would have loved Ryan and his fearless interpretations of his songs. It’s funny, but I feel Jerry close to me whenever I am around Ryan." - Phil Lesh
In early 2006, Ryan and Phil recorded some songs together at Loho Studios in New York City. Although very little is known about the sessions, one fan who claimed to have spoke with Ryan after a gig, reported that Adams was planning to release the material "when the time was right". Not long after the recordings took place, Phil Lesh was interviewed in the Citizen Times and said the following:
Q: You were recently in the studio with Ryan Adams. Although he seems like an unlikely Dead-style collaborator, what can you tell us about the sessions? 
Phil Lesh: I played on about five songs during Ryan’s recent sessions, and I’m still waiting to hear what will come out of it. The thing about him is that he’s so darn prolific. In that period of time he laid down 28 songs of which I think he is going to make two more albums. He’s an immensely talented artist, and his every move is improvisation. Every one of his songs speak to me in a very deep and fundamental way. It’s not a question of Dead style. I’m more interested in playing in his style. I’ll jump on any opportunity to play with him.
2006 was an extremely prolific year for Ryan Adams, and it's difficult to guage where these sessions with Phil Lesh fit in. Early in the year, he recorded the hard rockin' double LP - III/IV, and by July he was wrapping up another double album called War and Peace. So it's possible that these five songs with Phil Lesh may have been left over from one of these albums, re-recorded with a different bass player for contract-related reasons, or recorded for an entirely different 28 song album that we don't know about yet.!? Who knows? But it's fun to dream about what the pairing of these two could have come up with.

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