- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

If Joe Uehlein didn’t have a band of his own, he easily could find work in a Grateful Dead tribute band as a ringer for singer-guitarist Bob Weir. He even has the dark features and an expressive baritone to match.

Tuesday night, which marked the 10th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death, gave Mr. Uehlein the chance to perform as a mind meld of the Dead’s two main men — and area Deadheads an excuse to iron their tie-dye T-shirts, swap show stories and do the dancing-bear boogie.

Mr. Uehlein, who daylights as the clean-living director of strategic campaigns for the AFL-CIO, and his band, the U-Liners, staged a tribute to Mr. Garcia at Iota Club & Cafe in Arlington, bringing with them local alt-country rockers the Big Sky and Lester Chambers of the legendary psychedelic soul singers the Chambers Brothers.

Mr. Uehlein could have phoned in Dead faves (of which, during the nearly four-hour set, there were plenty, including “Ripple,” “Casey Jones,” “Friend of the Devil,” “U.S. Blues” and “Truckin’”), but he tried the more challenging, big-church method of celebrating every aspect of Mr. Garcia’s career — from his folksy banjo and bluegrass roots to his love of American blues and country to his admiration for contemporaries such as the Beatles.

He and his band mates fairly flirted with danger with their near-perfect take on Mr. Garcia’s complicated cover of Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby” and plucked from obscurity songs such as “Midnight Moonlight” and “Panama Red” from Mr. Garcia’s periodic days with the bluegrass group Old & In the Way.

Serious instrumental chops abounded on Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” and Dead-beloved traditionals such as “I Know You Rider” and “Deep Elem Blues.” Mr. Chambers let fly a throaty rendition of Willie Dixon’s “Big Boss Man.”

Guitarist Avril Smith played sweet, sophisticated jazz lines as if she were browsing the clearance rack at Ann Taylor. Akira Otsuka turned in some fiery mandolin solos, while Mindy McWilliams added touches of fiddle and high harmonies. In the U-Liners’ rhythm section were drummer Larry Ferguson and bass wizard Barry Warsaw.

On an evening that might have ended appropriately, if predictably, with the Dead’s “He’s Gone,” Mr. Uehlein ceded the spotlight again to Mr. Chambers for “Time Has Come Today,” the ubiquitous Chambers Brothers classic with enough cowbell to satisfy Christopher Walken.

As Mr. Garcia once sang, there was nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile — at least until it was time to return to those pesky day jobs.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide