Green Leaf Rustlers “From Within Marin” (Silver Arrow Records, 2020)

Ever wondered what Chris Robinson does in his spare time? Well, it seems he’s fond of playing locally in Marin County with a bunch of buddies in a band called the Green Leaf Rustlers. And not just any old buddies as the band consists of Robinson (guitar, vocals) along with Barry Sless (David Nelson Band, on guitars and pedal steel), Greg Loiacono (The Mother Hips, on guitars), John Molo (Bruce Hornsby, on drums), and the legendary Pete Sears (Rod Stewart, Copperhead, Jefferson Starship, on bass). According to Robinson, “Green Leaf Rustlers are a Marin County hippie hayride, rockin’ and rollin’ through our favourite classic cosmic country covers and keeping the good people dancing the night away under star-filled western skies.” And that just about sums up this two-disc vinyl live set.

Marin County is on the north of San Francisco bay and it was to there that the Grateful Dead, along with other bay area bands such as Quicksilver, moved to get away from the decaying psychedelic chaos of SF in the late sixties, early seventies. Its green rolling hills and rural layout allowed the bands to act out their cosmic cowboy fantasies and this freewheeling vibe seems to still abide there. The spirit of the Dead certainly inhabits much of this album. The ten songs are all covers and although there isn’t a Dead song to be heard, it’s impossible to listen to the lengthy ‘Jam’ segueing into a Bo Diddley like ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ without being reminded of Garcia & Co’s Europe 72 outing. In addition, the album was recorded (excellently) by Grateful Dead archivist Betty Cantor Jackson – her name alone will probably mean this album will attract Deadheads.

So, a must for old hippies and deadheads, but ‘From Within Marin’ actually is a brilliant listen from start to finish for anyone with a bent towards retooled classic songs played with passion and style. It’s not jam band territory despite several of the songs unspooling over many minutes. The solos (and there are many of them) are concise yet exciting and uniformly excellent while Robinson imbues the songs with character especially on their remake/remodel of Dylan’s ‘Positively 4th Street’. Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Standin’’ is another Deadringer (if you’ll excuse the pun) with Garcia like guitar burbling throughout and the twin guitars of Sless and Loiacono out ramble The Allmans on their take of Gram Parsons’ ‘Big Mouth Blues’. There’s a ‘Ramblin’ Man’ on show here but it isn’t the Allmans’ song, instead it’s a Ray Pennington write popularised by Waylon Jennings and it’s given a good old fashioned cosmic country workout. J.J. Cale’s ‘Ride Me High’ is the one song here where the band waver somewhat from the high bar they’ve set themselves but all is redeemed with their glorious delivery of the Stones ‘No Expectations’ which is really gorgeous.

Only available on a handsome vinyl package or via digital platforms, ‘From Within Marin’ is a throwback to be sure but, for those inclined, it’s quite magnificent.

A brilliant album of covers from start to finish played with passion and style
8/10

Summary

Keep on truckin’ with this fine slice of cosmic country joy

Author: Paul Kerr

Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

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