Day of the Dead, released today, is the massive Grateful Dead tribute compilation curated by The National's guitarist brothers, Aaron and Bryce Dessner. The expansive five-disc box set features Dead covers by The National, Mumford & Sons, The Flaming Lips and many more.
Serving as the collection's house band, The National invited more than 60 different artists from various backgrounds to contribute to the set. The Dead's prolific guitarist and singer Bob Weir even joined in on the fun, performing with both The National and perennial indie favorite Wilco.
The Dessners (and The National) are currently at the forefront of a contemporary Grateful Dead renaissance. Appreciation for the historic jam band, whereas once sheepishly concealed by alternative and post-punk musicians, is again being widely recognized and celebrated.
As Bryce Dessner told The Guardian, his formative musicality owes the same debt to the Grateful Dead as to the '60s garage rock revolution kindled by Lou Reed and John Cale:
"When we learned to play in bands, what we were covering was equal part the Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead. That would defy the logic that somehow these things don't fit in the same musical well. "
Perhaps some tacit punk resentment for the legendary band owes to their bookish instrumental dexterity, intrinsically exalted by still-thriving legions of neo-psychedelic, tape-trading supporters: Deadheads. Speaking to Relix, Aaron Dessner praised the erudite musicianship of the Dead:
"The Dead's music was essentially a blend of all these different things," Aaron says. "There's obviously a lot of theory not only in Phil Lesh's playing but also in Bob Weir's. There was a lot of modal stuff, and in a way, it had as much to do with jazz as it does with rock or roots music."
Some highlights of the giant 59-track compilation include The Flaming Lips' trippy take on "Dark Star," Hiss Golden Messenger's jangly "Brown-Eyed Women" and The Lone Bellow's rendition of the classic Weir-led cowboy song, "Me and My Uncle."
Former Dead members Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, along with Weir, currently perform as Dead & Company with guitarist John Mayer. The band is now touring the U.S. and may even record an album together.
Below, listen The National cover the Dead's "Morning Dew," from Day of the Dead.