Stolen Faces(Grateful Dead Tribute Band) In the tradition of psychedelic rock, Grateful Dead cover band "The Stolen Faces," interpret the music of the Grateful Dead with the spirited and soulful center of a well-seasoned jam band. Truckin' around the Southeast, they take their set lists from a deep catalog of Dead covers ranging from Ripple, Bird Song, Eyes of the World, Cassidy, Althea, Shakedown Street, to Fire on the Mountain. This southeastern-based Grateful Dead tribute band plays up to 4 hour shows on college campuses in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
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by Lawrence Specker
Bassist Christian Grizzard, who returns to Mobile for a post-Thanksgiving show with his band The Stolen Faces, says the project hasn't just been fun - it's been a revelation.
"It's been a lesson in songwriting and composition," he says of life in his Grateful Dead cover band. "Robert Hunter was such a great lyricist. But above that, how Jerry Garcia composed this stuff and how he put those words to music, it's unbelievable. As a musician, I've never experienced songwriting like this before. It's opened my mind hugely to the possibilities of songwriting
Grateful Dead-inspired acts run the gamut, of course, from newcomers who use the group's jam-heavy style as a license for lazy playing to full-bore tribute acts such as the Dark Star Orchestra, which aim to re-create the look and note-for-note feel of specific concerts.
Grizzard and his group take a looser approach that emphasizes the songs themselves, rather than specific recordings or performances of them, an approach that goes back to The Stolen Faces' almost accidental origin.
On the Mobile scene, Grizzard is remembered as a member of funky jam group Kung Fu Mama and an offshoot, The Cosmopolitans. He also has played in Grayson Capps' group The Lost Cause Minstrels. After moving to Nashville more than 10 years ago, he recorded and performed with several groups, searching for the right vehicle.
He stumbled across it when brainstorming with a couple of guys from Billy Currington's band. The three of them were trying to come up with a side project, and tried a few different things, including jazz, before realizing they had a shared love of The Grateful Dead.
At that point, "It just started coming together so fast that it was obvious that, 'Okay, we need to do this,'" said Grizzard. "I realized that with some work we could do this well."
He spent some time doing his homework, checking out the competition. "There's a really big difference between guys who casually do this and guys who really take this seriously," he said.
The Stolen Faces takes it seriously: As Grizzard puts it on the band's website, the band "features guitarist Jack Silverman and a rotating cast of some of Nashville's top session and touring musicians," people who've backed major artists such as George Strait, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett.
Silverman recently wrote an essay in Nashville Scene describing the resurgence he's seen in appreciation over the years. In the past, he said, he felt like he had to keep his Deadhead leanings hidden from other Nashville professionals. But now he writes, "what was once an albatross around my neck has become my ticket to street cred. For a variety of reasons, the Dead are cool again, even with young indie artists and tastemakers who years ago I would have assumed frowned on the Dead or considered them dusty relics."
Grizzard says the group now knows about 100 Dead tunes, with a heavy emphasis on the band's original songs. (In other words, they don't spend much time covering the Dead covering other people, as fun as those songs might be.) While they do seek to emulate The Grateful Dead's musicianship and its rich harmonies, they don't aim for note-by-note replication. "It's a lot more freeing to be a band of good musicians that interprets these songs," Grizzard says.
The payoff, he says, likewise has an extra dimension.
"There's something about The Grateful Dead - the music and the people and family surrounding it -- that really is magical," Grizzard says. "It brings people together ... It starts with the unbelievable songwriting, but beyond that, they were able to achieve a family-type following that no band had ever done before. And it just turned into a whole other thing."