Saxophonist Dave McMurray and vocalist Jamey Johnson have released the official music video for their epic new rendition of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter’s “To Lay Me Down.” The beautifully unique visual telling of Hunter's lyrics was animated and directed by Brooklyn, NY visual artist Andrew Benincasa.
Besides Jamey Johnson, the song also features contributions from pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, guitarist Larry Campbell, and bassist Don Was. The song appears on McMurray’s upcoming album Grateful Deadication 2, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2021 tribute album which once again finds the saxophonist reimagining the songs of the Grateful Dead with his gritty and soulful Detroit sound. The album comes out May 19 on Blue Note Records and features additional special guests including Oteil Burbridge and Bob James.
“I first met Jamey when we were on the same tour together”, says McMurray. “I’d look forward each night to hear him do ‘In Color’ alone, with just his voice and guitar, and it was always amazing. So when it came to finding the perfect vocal for ‘To Lay Me Down,’ I thought of Jamey right away. What he did with the song is so raw and emotional and tells the story in a whole different way. He got way inside the lyric and it just felt like nothing I’d ever heard before.”
WATCH “TO LAY ME DOWN” OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO
LISTEN TO "TO LAY ME DOWN FEAT. JAMEY JOHNSON"
PRE-ORDER GRATEFUL DEADICATION 2
Grateful Deadication 2 is a 9-song set that offers up Dead favorites and deep cuts including “Truckin’,” “China Cat Sunflower,” and the lead single “Scarlet Begonias” which features vocals by Burbridge. Returning to the fold are McMurray’s Detroit associates guitarist Wayne Gerard, keyboardist Maurice O’Neal, pianist Luis Resto, bassist Ibrahim Jones drummer Jeff Canady, and percussionist Larry Fratangelo.
“My most recent journey into Grateful Dead world began when my Detroit band and I traveled to Clubhouse Studios in Upstate New York,” says McMurray. “It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by lots of open land, and filled with vintage equipment. With master engineer Elliot Scheiner in tow, and four days and nights with only creating music on the brain, the vibe was just right. The result is a dark, sparse, emotional ride into the minds of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and the Grateful Dead... Detroit style.”
Released in 2021, Grateful Deadication was an album as vibrant as it was unexpected. Highlights of the set included the appearance of Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir with vocalist Bettye LaVette on a powerful remake of “Loser,” and an expansive version of “Dark Star” which The New York Times wrote “channels the epically trippy M.O. of a Dead performance… a coolly grooving section opens up, and the saxophonist dishes out a solo that’s laced with greasy Motor City attitude but still takes its time, as if to bask in the California sun.”
Reflecting upon when he first heard the Grateful Dead, McMurray says “The long-form, odd measures and complex chords of the music hooked me immediately. I noticed the songs had great melodies yet held the openness of Miles Davis’ Electric Period. The music was catchy, psychedelic, raw, with the idea that nobody solos/everybody solos—akin to Weather Report. The more I listened, the more I knew these songs would eventually become a vehicle for my jazz expression.”
During the heyday of the Dead’s tireless touring, McMurray was on the road himself, joining now-Blue Note president Don Was in the uncategorizable Was (Not Was) beginning in 1981. McMurray has performed with a stunning roster of legendary musicians, including B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson, KEM, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Geri Allen, and Bob James.
In 2018 McMurray joined Don Was for an all-star set at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. The performance featured a surprise appearance by Weir, who had recently enlisted Was and drummer Jay Lane for his new band Wolf Bros, including a rendition of Dead classic “Days Between.”
Grateful Deadication 2 is not only another heartfelt celebration of the Grateful Dead’s brilliant songcraft, but the imagination and soul evident throughout the album exemplifies the wide range of McMurray’s influences - from jazz, pop, rock, soul, reggae, R&B, gospel and beyond.