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Donna Jean and the Tricksters - Self Titled
CD Review by Jud Conway on 8/26/2008   

Legendary jamband, the Zen Tricksters, have teamed up with ex-Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay to produce an eponymous studio recording with a real live feel. And we’re not simply talking about modern interpretations of classic Grateful Dead songs; Listeners are treated to a dozen strong original compositions, penned (primarily) by Donna Jean and various members of the Zen Tricksters.

The seeds of the album were sown in 2006, when Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay, who sang with the Grateful Dead from 1971 through 1979, met the Zen Tricksters at The Black Tie-Dyed Ball, a benefit concert for The Dead’s Rex Foundation. Fast-forward several years, and Donna Jean, along with lead guitarist Jeff Mattson, rhythm guitarist Tom Circosta, bassist/multi-instrumentalist Klyph Black and drummer Dave Diamond, have entered the studio and embarked on a successful concert tour with Hope In Time vocalist Wendy Lanter and keyboardist/pianist extraordinaire Mookie Siegel (David Nelson Band, RatDog, Phil Lesh & Friends).

The resulting Donna Jean and the Tricksters definitely jam, particularly on the album’s thirteen-plus minute centerpiece "Me and Joe Kettle." They also manage to transcend mere deadhead appeal to create a unique sound all their own, touching on subgenres of popular music as diverse as blue-eyed soul and bluegrass. All members of the unit contribute vocals, culminating in occasional seven-part harmony. Standout tracks include album opener "All I Gotta Say," the string-laden "He Said, She Said" and "Farewell Jack," a track written by late husband/ex-Grateful Dead keyboardist Keith Godchaux and his brother, violinist Brian Godchaux (Dan Hicks Band).

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