The Dixie Dregs were an instrumental rock, bluegrass, jazz fusion band from the late 70’s/early 80’s. They were on the rock side of the fusion scene and were one of the first rock/bluegrass bands that I got into. They didn’t play too much bluegrass but when they did like on their live favorite “The Bash” they played it well. I used to own all of their records on vinyl and listened to them quite a bit back in the day. When I was rebuilding my record collection the only vinyl of theirs I made to re-buy was Night of the Living Dregs. This is their fourth album and they received a Grammy nomination for it for best rock instrumental nomination. They faced stiff competition from The Allman Brothers, Frank Zappa, and Paul McCartney with McCartney taking the win. Not bad company to be in competition with though! The same thing ended up happening for their next three albums but I feel that only Night of the Living Dregs truly deserved the Grammy nod.
Night of the Living Dregs is a mixture of live and studio work. The first side of the record was recorded in the studio while the second side was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 23, 1978. The band on this album is made up of Steve Morse (guitars), Rod Morgenstein (drums), Allen Sloan (violins), Mark Parrish (keyboards), and Andy West (bass). This album has some of their best songwriting on it, and only Free Fall can probably give it a run for its money. While their other albums tend to have one or two really great songs with mediocre ones in the mix as filler this one has nothing but good songs on it. I can listen to every song on this album which can’t be said for most instrumental albums. This was their first album to have “The Bash”, a great bluegrass medley, on it that features lots of back-and-forth between the guitar and violin and sometimes, in later renditions, the keyboards.
Another great album of theirs is the newer live album California Screamin’ .This is a live album recorded at The Dixie Dregs reunion at the Roxy Theater in 1999. This album is a bit more hard rockish than their previous albums, which is most likely a reflection of the times. The lineup consists of a mixture of old and new members with Allen Sloan and Andy West making an appearance from the old band. The new band is made up of the two consistent members Steve Morse and Rod Morgenstein with Jerry Goodman (violin), Dave LaRue (bass), and T Lavitz (keyboards) rounding out the band. Most of the songs on California Screamin’ are from the early Dreg days especially their first album Free Fall with a few covers thrown in as well. Dweezil Zappa guest appears on bass for a great cover of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia”, one of my all time favorite Frank Zappa songs. They also do a great cover of The Allman Brothers “Jessica”. This album is essentially a live best-of album and has most of the songs of theirs that I like that aren’t on Night of the Living Dregs. The only song from Night of the Living Dregs on here is “The Bash” which I am pretty sure appears on all of their live albums.
This band was one of my favorite instrumental rock bands to listen to when I first got into progressive rock. While this band is no longer together most of the musicians are still making great music. I think that Steve Morse is the only one that achieved any level of fame since he is the current guitarist for Deep Purple. Most of the music the other musicians make tend to be solo prog rock projects that are good but nothing like the Dixie Dregs were.
Jerry Goodman (Violin) – Jazz-Fusion Legends Mahavishnu Orchestra’s new unreleased Music