May 1 was supposed to be the touring debut of Dead to the Core, a collective of singer-songwriters and acoustic instrumentalists celebrating the music of the Grateful Dead. But the musicians instead found themselves sequestered at home. So they gathered virtually to create a communal video of just the right song for the times: the Dead’s “Touch of Grey,” with its message that, in spite of all the troubles, “we will survive.”
Dead to the Core’s “Touch of Grey” video premieres on May 21, and the track will be released soon as a digital single.
The video supports fundraising for Club Passim, the legendary venue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Dead to the Core first performed. The nonprofit arts organization has given over $110,000 in grants to working musicians during the coronavirus crisis through the PEAR (Passim Emergency Artist Relief) Fund.
The song came together through weeks of long-distance collaboration. The leader of Dead the Core, musician/author Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, recorded the acoustic guitar and vocal guide track in his home studio outside Syracuse, New York, and invited nine other musicians around the northeast to add their instruments and voices.
In Brooklyn, Jefferson Hamer (Session Americana, the Murphy Beds) picked mandolin. In Maine, Steve Roy (Molly Tuttle, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen) played upright bass. In the Boston area, four musicians added parts: Ryan Fitzsimmons on guitar, Laurence Scudder on viola, Jim Larkin on drums, and Greg Klyma on vocals.
In the Hudson Valley, Natalia Zukerman played lap steel. In western Massachusetts, Anand Nayak (Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem) layered acoustic guitar. Back in Syracuse, Wendy “Sassafras” Ramsay, Rodgers’ partner in the Americana duo Pepper and Sassafras, added flute. And everyone sang.
Produced by Nayak (audio) and Fitzsimmons (video), Dead to the Core's "Touch of Grey" is a joyous celebration of connecting through music.
Following the video premiere, the acoustic Dead festivities continue:
- 5/26 Guitar Sessions Episode 9: Learn the secret of Jerry Garcia's soloing in "Touch of Grey”
- 6/6–7 Dead to the Core Fest online, with performances by Jefferson Hamer, Natalia Zukerman, Mark Erelli, David Surette and Steve Roy, and more
- 6/13 Grateful Dead for Acoustic Guitar online workshop with Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, hosted by House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, Maryland