Gary Gates Band Acoustic Live at the San Gregorio
Aside from Neil Young, there is no brighter star in the famed West Coast hamlet of La Honda than Gary Gates. A veteran of the Bay Area music scene, Gary has been playing 'jam band' music longer than the moniker has existed. In 1976, Gary toured as the opening act for Neil's legendary Northern California Bar Tour. As a member of the popular Loma Mar Store Band, later Rhythm Method, and now fronting a band of his own name, Gary has picked up more and more fans and admirees over the decades. Yet wider-spread stardom has eluded Gary, possibly because of his frequent 'staycations' in Hawaii and Thailand. Regardless, the Gary Gates Band is arguably today's Bay Area's hottest unsigned jam band. Gary's latest release is his first live CD, after three previous studio discs, and his first all acoustic effort. Recorded just down the road from the heart of La Honda, the aptly titled 'Live at the San Gregorio General Store' includes some of Gary's strongest material and best musicianship. Backed by a big band of three acoustic guitars, upright bass, mandolin, drums, percussion and accordion, Gary flexes his rich vocal muscle over a mix of six originals, a pair of Bob Marley tunes, the obscure 'Guava Jelly' and the well-loved 'No Woman No Cry', a Warren Zevon gem 'Carmelita', and a pair of tunes associated with Jerry Garcia, the Dead's 'Friend of the Devil' and David Grisiom's 'All Around This World'. The disc opens with Gary's trademark feel-good reggae-rock on 'Silver Dollar,' and later revisits the Jamaican influence on Gary's crowd favorite and jam-friendly 'Knockin on Your Door.' Along the way, the music ranges from the tropical tinge of 'Smiles of My Friends' to the Tex-Mex two-step of 'Pescadero Daze,' which has become a major hit along the coastal area around La Honda and Pescadero. Gary's rich voice leads the way but he spreads the instrument solos out among his cast of top-notch players. Bundy Brown takes his vintage Gibson mandolin on frequent excursions, always colorful and often exquisite. 'Second' guitarist Rick Sigman adds bluesy single-note leads while fellow 'second' guitarist Charlie Natzke contributes with arpegiated flourishes and chordal melody playing. And, Gary himself strings it all together with his adventurous guitar work, reminiscent of Garcia but hardly derivative. The CD was recorded and produced by John Nowland, who's day job is Neil Young's full-time studio engineer. Nowland also engineered Jewel's chart-topping 'Pieces of You.' Gary will also perform this summer at the annual La Honda Fair and Pescadero Art & Fun Festival, both of which he has headlined every year since the events began some 17 years ago.