Mountain Bus: Sundance (1971)

While the Grateful Dead are obviously American icons, it's always been my impression that back in the early '70s, aside from the touring circuit, they were more of a fringe act. Which is why it's always so surprising, when digging through the vaults of minor gems unearthed by reissue labels or online music fanatics, how many bands back in the day were inspired by the Dead.

Here's one of my personal favorites, a one-off LP from Chicago-based Mountain Bus. Coming out in '71, Sundance bears the obvious imprint of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, as well as the Dead's live sound from that era, mildly psychedelic rootsy Americana. But despite its obvious status as a bit of a Dead cast-off, it's genuinely enjoyable in its own right.

The Dead indebtedness is most apparent on their cover of the folk traditional "I Know You Rider," which uses the Dead's arrangement of the song and comes coupled with a lengthy jam. Nothing original here, but it sounds great. "Rosalie" sounds like it borrows from Dead b-side "Mason's Children"; "I Don't Worry About Tomorrow" is perky twang, "Cumberland Blues" crossed with the Byrds. And the title track leads with a Jefferson Airpline-like folk rock before edging into a rousing jam.

Beyond the Americana stylings, the band takes a few trips into deeper psychedelia, both on the brief instrumental "Apache Canyon" and the longer, "Dark Star"-inspired (with shades of Crazy Horse "Down By The River" jamming) "Hexahedron."

Parts of the album haven't aged that well, a bit corny, but the jams are still fun enough.

The band only lasted for a single album (apparently done in by a lawsuit by hard rock band Mountain over the use of the name). You can buy the reissue (which appends some live and studio bonus tracks, sounding even more Dead-inspired) on Amazon. It doesn't stream, but here's a rip of the entire album (with the bonus tracks):
Here's "I Know You Rider":
 Here's "Rosalie":
Here's the title track:
And "Hexahedron":

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