April 15, 2009

I’d wanted to write about Akron/Family ever since their SXSW set at the Dead Oceans showcase left me waxing rhapsodic about their ability to successfully navigate the divide between the genius of the great jam bands (The Dead, The Allmans, Phish), vs. the fat-fingered indulgences of their single (brain) celled brethren. But props to Hidden Track, for providing me with the impetus: Akron’s cover of Dead staple, “I Know You Rider.”There are celestial harmonies, harmonica, banjos, and feathers in hats–though no one calls it macaroni.

I’m currently in the midst of writing an article about the Dead’s emergence as a touchstone in contemporary indie, with Animal Collective, Blitzen Trapper, Dr. Dog, and Akron, openly acknowledging the architects. But for my eighth’s worth, the Brooklyn by way of Pennsylvania trio, channels the lysergic efflorescence of Jerry & Co. better than any of their brethren, tugging at similar roots: folk, psychedelic rock, free jazz, afro-beat, delta blues, yet filtering them in a way that never feels pre-worn or familiar. Their latest album, Set ‘Em Wild, Set Em Free, might be their best yet, and certainly comes the closest to matching the high-wattage illumination of the live show. These guys are probably the best family since Sly, or at least Mo Thugs.

[Pre-Order: Akron/Family-Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free]

MP3: Akron/Family-“River”
MP3: Akron/Family-“Ed Is a Portal” (Left-Click)

MP3: The Grateful Dead-“I Know You Rider” (Live @ Carousel Ballroom, 1969)

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