Various Artists ‘Day of the Dead’

Grateful Dead Tribute Features Lucinda Williams and Courtney Barnett, Plus Many More

With 59 tracks, more than 60 artists collaborating, and five and a half hours of music, Day of the Dead, which dropped on May 20, is your summer binge-listening project starting now. The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner created and curated this massive project for the Red Hot Organization, which has been using top musicians and the tribute-album concept to raise money for the fight against HIV/AIDS since 1990. This sprawling three-CD set mimics a Grateful Dead concert in scale and structure and leans toward the Hunter/Garcia side of the group’s repertoire, with a nod to bassist Phil Lesh and his propensity for sonic experimentation. Bob Weir appears on tracks with Wilco and The National; other selections feature big names from planet indie, such as Lucinda Williams and Courtney Barnett, alongside more obscure but still-worthy artists such as Lucius and Phosphorescent. Mumford and Sons contributes an outstanding and unexpected take on “Friend of the Devil,” and the whole project is remarkably free from space-jam noodling, focusing instead on what’s most interesting about the Dead as songwriters and musicians. This is highly recommended, especially to those who think that their deadhead days are over. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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