7 Walkers

Old Settler's Live Shots

Old Settler's Live Shots
Photo by Shelley Hiam

7 Walkers

Camp Ben McCulloch, April 17

Few knew what to expect from the local debut of 7 Walkers, the new collaboration between Austin funk godfather Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne and Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. If the assembled came looking for a spirited, decidedly Southern version of a Dead cover band, they weren't disappointed. With lightning sparking toward the witching hour, they started with a polyrhythmic jam, perhaps an exercise to get Kreutzmann's juices flowing before bounding into the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter penned "Deal." Keyboard player Matt Hubbard rapidly became a vital part of the group, his barrelhouse style leading the way, then his trombone adding a funereal touch to the eerie "Death Don't Have No Mercy," and his fiery harmonica punctuating the set's bluesy interludes. New Bohemians bassist Brad Houser more than capably rounded out the quartet. After 30 minutes, they took a break just long enough for Welbourne to grin "We're just getting started," then raged and rambled through another Dead standard, "Turn on Your Love Light." New tunes were sprinkled into the mix, lyrics provided by Hunter, the most distinctive being one that gives the band its name. Over a second-line beat, Welbourne repeated, "Seven walkers looking down from heaven" before launching into an extended slide guitar solo that segued into a crowd-pumping "I Know You Rider," which ended the 90-minute performance. The opportunity to witness Kreutzmann's propulsive drumming up close was heavenly.

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