7 Walkers merge Grateful Dead rock with New Orleans funk
Though the concept of the supergroup isn’t new, it’s difficult to imagine one forming as organically as the 7 Walkers, a seamless blend of San Francisco Bay Area rock and New Orleans funk, featuring Grateful Dead co-founder/drummer Bill Kreutzmann; Austin, Texas roots-rock guitarist Malcolm Welbourne, a.k.a. Papa Mali; legendary New Orleans bassist George Porter Jr. (The Meters, Funky Meters); and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson).
The seeds for 7 Walkers were planted in July 2008 when Kreutzmann went backstage to meet Welbourne after one of the guitarist’s sets at a festival. The two men hit it off, hung out together for a couple of days and closed their weekend-long journey with an impromptu set at the festival.
“It’s all been very natural, which is the best way,” said Welbourne en route to a New Orleans studio two weeks ago to record an album with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux during Mardi Gras. “Bill and I met as friends and became good friends before we talked about doing a band together. That makes a big difference.”
After the festival, the two musicians went their separate ways, but met up again for a show in Hawaii. That’s when Kreutzmann asked Welbourne if he would be interested in writing songs with Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead’s legendary lyricist who penned classic Dead tunes like “Truckin’” and “Terrapin Station.” Naturally, Welbourne agreed and 7 Walkers leaped to its collective feet.