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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Grateful Dawg (2001)

"They were born out of the same cosmic egg."
- Peter Rowan

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: February 06, 2002

Stars: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman
Director: Gillian Grisman

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief language
Run Time: 01h:21m:16s
Release Date: February 05, 2002
UPC: 043396071681
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-BB+ B-

DVD Review

Having withstood a three-hour downpour to see my favorite band Incubus perform this past summer, an obsession with a band is not totally lost on me. Though the general god-like stature of The Grateful Dead to so many millions of fans is, I will admit, baffling. I've never found their music all that compelling, but perhaps this is due to the fact I began my love for music years after the group hit their prime. But my interest was piqued when I heard of the collaboration between Dead leader Jerry Garcia and the amazing mandolin player David Grisman named Grateful Dawg. As a sort of mix between rock, folk, and bluegrass the two released five albums together before Jerry's death in 1995, and dare I say that the music by Grateful Dawg is light years ahead of that created by the Dead. David Grisman is unknown to many, but those who do know of him find him to be an extremely gifted mandolin player. In 1964 he met Jerry Garcia and the rest, as they say, is history. For years Grisman and Garcia would get together and create music that seemed to bend the conventions of bluegrass music. The two toured festivals and eventually released an album that would rise to the top of the bluegrass charts. Due to unfortunate circumstances the two lost touch and went their separate ways. Garcia would continue to dedicate his time to the Grateful Dead until the two reunited in the 1980s to record nearly fifty times before Garcia's passing.What makes Grateful Dawg work so well is that it avoids becoming an episode of Behind The Music. Directed with skilled assurance by Grisman's daughter Gillian, the documentary paints a loving portrait of the two gifted musicians, and shows them more as friends than as musicians. Very little is said about The Grateful Dead until near the midway point of the film, which helps us forget about Garcia's day job and thankfully lets us focus on this lesser known aspect of his life. Featuring a large amount of home movies, Grateful Dawg certainly offers an intimate portrait of the two. Gillian Grisman is able to penetrate the pair's inner sanctum, access that surely would not have been allowed to an outsider. Because of the relationship between director and star it is possible that the film focuses a bit too much on Grisman; Garcia is only interviewed a handful of times. It is refreshing to see Garcia away from the Dead; he seems to be a bit more comfortable away from the massive crowds . As a sort of added bonus Gillian Grisman has included several performances and the music video for the blues heavy the Thrill is Gone.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The packaging for Grateful Dawg claims that the film is presented in a full-screen presentation though after putting the disc into my player the image looks to be presented in a 1.66:1 widescreen transfer. The image quality is mixed as the film features both home movies and newly produced interview footage. The home movies have a soft look and show a fair amount of grain with poor coloring. The interview footage looks great though with strong colors and good detail. Some of the interviews clips have some print flaws as well as some slight pixelation. Overall this is a mixed bag of a transfer, but given the source material it could be worse.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for Grateful Dawg is easily one of the most surprising mixes I have heard recently. Going in I expected a sort of no frills soundtrack considering the film is a documentary, but was surprised to find the mix filled with incredible depth. The picking sounds of the guitars come off beautifully in each speaker with dialogue sounding great and not harsh or distorted. In some of the home movie footage the mix falters, but given the source this is understandable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Gillian Grisman and star David Grisman
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus Performances
  2. Outtakes
  3. Discography
Extras Review: While not bursting over with special features, Grateful Dawg does offer a few. First is an audio commentary track by director Gillian Grisman and star David Grisman. As one might expect the track is very personal, as each talks about the events and the impact on their lives, while Gillian talks at length about making the film and compiling the footage. A nice track, but for those who are not connected with the music it might be a bore. Next up is the full-length music video for The Thrill is Gone, as well as additional bonus performances. Each of which are included in the feature, but it is nice to have them accessible without having to skip though the film. A Discography for Grateful Dawg is available, as are production notes, and a short collection of outtakes.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Those expecting an expos&eaccute; on the Grateful Dead will be disappointed to see that Grateful Dawg is in fact an homage to Grisman and Garcia. I was pleased to see Garcia in this different light. For anyone serious about music, Grateful Dawg is a treasure worth seeking. Recommended.


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