Seven Walkers – An unexpected jewel in the rough
by Doug Heselgrave
Seven Walkers self-titled debut is the best studio album featuring a member of the Grateful Dead since American Beauty was released in 1970
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that even though The Grateful Dead released thirteen studio albums during their thirty year career that they were always primarily a live band. Many Deadheads in my acquaintance admit to never having taken the band’s traditional releases out of the cellophane wrapping – preferring instead to hear the songs develop as they unfolded and grew on stage.
I recently spoke with the former Grateful Dead percussionist, Bill Kreutzmann about his new band, 7 Walkers and he remarked at the beginning of our conversation that other than ‘American Beauty’ – a classic set that included ‘Truckin’, ‘Box of Rain’, ‘Sugar Magnolia’ and other concert favourites – he was never really satisfied with the Grateful Dead’s studio output. For Kreutzmann, the 7 Walkers debut marks the high point of his recorded work and after nearly fifty years in the biz, he couldn’t sound more proud or enthusiastic about what he’s doing.
7 Walkers formed last year when Kreutzmann got together and jammed with Papa Mali, a guitarist and songwriter from Shreveport after the two met at the Oregon County Fair. When Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green and Matt Hubbard from Willie Nelson’s band were added to the mix, the magic began to take shape.
After woodshedding dozens of musical ideas in informal settings and adding legendary bassist George Porter Jr. when Mathis decided to concentrate on Tea Leaf Green, the group went into the studio with a set of songs that Papa Mali co-wrote with Robert Hunter, the lyricist for many of The Grateful Dead’s most endearing tunes.
A hybrid form of music that owes just as much to Dr. John, Tom Waits and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as it does to the Grateful Dead, 7 Walkers is an album of instant classics that will have enduring appeal. From moody instrumentals culled from an eight hour studio jam to polished songs like ‘King Cotton Blues’ – a dark outlaw number in which Willie Nelson cryptically lists the advantages and disadvantages of different ways of killing a person – 7 Walkers will certainly be ranked amongst the best roots releases of 2010.
You owe it to yourself to check out the song samples at www.7walkers.com
Check here next week to read my interview with Bill Kreutzman as he candidly discusses everything from scuba diving to 7 Walkers and playing in the Dead without Jerry Garcia.
This article also appears at www.restlessandreal.blogspot.com
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