The Grateful Dead's legendary leader Jerry Garcia has always been considered a very good guitarist with versatility to match. And on Hooteroll? (Evolver), a 1971 collaboration with keyboardist Howard Wales, Garcia has plenty of moments to demonstrate that he was more than just a rock 'n' roller. Wales, who played with the Dead on their 1970 album American Beauty, is not to be undervalued either. His organ work is especially notable wherever it is showcased on Hooteroll? The classic Grateful Dead sound can be detected on the margins, but for the most part this record is Garcia and Wales' more-than-able stab at improvisational music. And they do well, despite the album's occasionally sparse sound.
Beginning with "Morning in Marin," a rocking number with feverish drum patterns, it's clear right away that the music here is about time and place, and it drives home the point that this album is about something different, something more experimental and challenging. The spacey and soft "Da Birg Song" follows, and Deadheads will likely take to this track. It suggests that common theme found in the music of the late '60s and early '70s: escape. Wales' keyboards carry the tune well while Garcia plays behind his partner with mandolin-like guitar work. However, best of all is the work of flutist and saxophonist Martin Fierro. Time and again, Fierro's solos are pure and honest.
At the end of this transitory musical experience, Garcia and Wales offer an appropriate finality to their tale with "Evening in Marin." The day is over, the band is tired, and the slowing-down sounds of Garcia and Wales are etched into your memory like a well-earned road trip.