Grateful Dead legend takes music in a different direction with newest album


Charlotte Seton

“Blue Mountain,” a new solo album by former Grateful Dead singer and guitarist and Marin County resident Bob Weir, was released on Sept. 30.

However, Grateful Dead fans shouldn’t expect this album to have the same vibe that the band once created in their music.

Weir’s album certainly has an authentic country feel. Almost every song sounds folksy and bluesy, as he tells tales inspired by his time working in Wyoming to pursue his dream of being a cowboy.

The songs on the album offer a range of different tones―from somber and serious in “Lay My Lily Down,” to relaxing and mellow in “Blue Mountain.”  

While “Lay My Lily Down,” has a enjoyable beat, it was easy to recognize that this had more of a dark and deeper meaning than the rest of the songs. The haunting lyrics in this song are sung in the voice of a father as he buries his daughter. “Dig a hole in the cold, cold ground/Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow/To lay my Lily down,” Weir sings in the chorus. The instrumentation was mostly based around a dense meld of minor-key guitar chords, which really helped create this haunting sound.

The lyrics, tempo, vocals and instrumentation all enhance the simplistic, laid-back, old-style country feel of this music. This theme is shown in “Only A River,” where his lyrics address topics related to nature, particularly in the deserts and mountains. He sings, “Well, I was born up in the mountains/Raised up in a desert town/The ground is hard and the count is dry/But I’m gonna get my fill somehow/Rivers of corn, and wheat and rye.” The song itself is so tranquil, yet contains so much sentimentality. Weir feels determined to make a living in such a deserted place in the unknown.   

The vocals further emphasize this country theme when Weir is joined by a soft background chorus repeating the same lyrics. This adds more character and focus on the lyrics of the song.

In addition, the instruments are what you would traditionally expect to hear in a bluesy country music album such as the banjo, guitar and harmonica. It’s almost impossible to label the album as country music without the general simple forms and harmonies accompanied by these specific stringed instruments.

Some highlights of the album were the harmonica accompaniment in “Gonesville,” Weir’s whispery voice in the cemetery-related lyrics and the solo guitar work in “Ghost Towns.” Songs like these really brought uniqueness to the album rather than the mainstream repetitive country songs of any age.

However, there sometimes was a lack of harmony between Weir’s singing voice and the notes of the music, which lead to a discordant sound that makes it almost impossible for the listener to enjoy the true harmony and melodies.

At times Weir’s voice seemed strained, like in “Lay My Lily Down.” This is understandable, nonetheless, as the song has a somber tone and dark lyrics to it. It also lends that extra rustic appeal to his album.

Despite this, the album offers a lot that would be appealing for any country fans who like folksy and bluesy music and to any die-hard Deadheads because of their attraction to anything related to the Grateful Dead.

In all, this album creates an entire book of folksy stories that really brings out the country life, that Weir once lived, to his audience and fans of any age, creating a bond that makes this album meaningful to not just him but everyone who has grown up with him.  

Like country music from the 1950’s comprised of slow-paced and country ballads, Weir’s album definitely shows use of similar techniques, which made it overall successful (if that was what he was hoping give to his fans).