With his latest project, 7 Walkers, Bill Kreutzmann joins forces with an array of storied musicians, which includes Papa Mali, George Porter Jr., and Matt Hubbard. Their latest self-titled release [Response Records] is a mixture of New Orleans funk and San Francisco psychedelic rock, in which they aptly describe as "swampedelic."
The venture incorporates the freewheeling rock 'n' roll playfulness of the Grateful Dead, the sorrowful presence of southern voodoo, and the dizzying carnival atmosphere of Bourbon Street.
The man behind the curtain is legendary poet/lyricist Robert Hunter. It seems lightning continually strikes between the writer and members of the Grateful Dead. Each creation he brings to the 7 Walkers table fits cozily within Kreutzmann's rhythmic bloodline. It's an ongoing conversation that they've been speaking together for almost half a century -- a vibrant and wild American language.
This time it's the songwriting partnership between Mali and Hunter, which has flourished over the last few years. The album harvests a plethora of heartfelt material, soaking into your skin with the scent of a fresh rain or spilled whiskey bottle.
The recordings evoke the motherly aroma of a woman long lost in our eyes, but not our mind, where the femme fatale exists in the foggy memories of the past. The words of a bleeding heart echo through "Evangeline," where sharp-as-nails acoustic guitar strokes and bass drum beat mirror the sounds of a loved one slowly walking out of your life.
The lacy keyboard strokes, whirlwind circus rhythms, and guest vocals of Willie Nelson make "King Cotton Blues" sound like an instant classic. Somber guitar notes trickle out of the speakers, haunting the listener, residing within them like the residue from a cigarette consumed in a joyous haste -- it sticks to your heart, it sticks to your soul.
It is a feeling only found in the confines of sincere music molded by kindred spirits.
Tracking him down in Hawaii, Kreutzmann spoke of his hectic, yet bountiful, year of touring, how old age is but a number, and why Warren Haynes should be playing guitar alongside his Grateful Dead brother's (Bob Weir & Phil Lesh) latest project, Furthur.
How's the weather in Hawaii?
It's beautiful. God‚ it's perfect. I'm looking at the waves right now.
How long have you been out there?
About 15 years.
So‚ you're going back on the road soon with 7 Walkers.
Actually‚ I'm on the road now‚ but I didn't have to go very far. I live on Kauai. We're playing in Maui next Saturday and Sunday.
I spent some time out in Kauai. My sister went to UH (University of Hawaii). I was thinking that when I was out there‚ it felt like I was on a whole other planet.
I know. It's true. Literally and with everything else.
Do you like that dichotomy? The mainland where you tour‚ the isolation where you reside.
I love it. When I'm on the road a long time‚ I just think about where I live‚ and all that goes away. It's always nice to come home to a place where people vacation.
The Dead. Rhythm Devils. And now you're coming back through with 7 Walkers.
The 7 Walkers band is a completely different band and I have to switch gears‚ but it's really fun for me. Playing the New Orleans sound. It's psychedelic meets swamp or something. We call it "swampedelic."
How did your relationship start with Papa Mali?
My girlfriend turned me onto his music at our home in Kauai. She asked if I ever heard of Papa Mali and I hadn't. She put his album on and I thought‚ "Oh my god‚ this is great." Then‚ that very year‚ a few years ago‚ we went to the Oregon Country Fair and he was headlining it. It was great.