Phil Lesh, a founding member of the Grateful Dead, is gearing up to release his first studio album under the Phil Lesh & Friends banner. Due May 21 via Lesh's own Columbia-affiliated Lapis Music l

Phil Lesh, a founding member of the Grateful Dead, is gearing up to release his first studio album under the Phil Lesh & Friends banner. Due May 21 via Lesh's own Columbia-affiliated Lapis Music label, "There and Back Again" features the bassist/vocalist backed by guitarists Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Govt. Mule) and Jimmy Herring (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Allman Brothers), keyboardist/vocalist Rob Barraco (Zen Tricksters), and drummer John Molo (Bruce Hornsby).

"When we first started rehearsing, in the first 30 minutes everybody knew that it was really something special," Lesh said in a statement. "It was beyond chemistry. Everybody in this band is adventurous enough to play outside themselves and forget about what they know, and deal with the context of what's happening in the moment."

Produced by Don Gehman (Hootie & the Blowfish, John Mellencamp), "There and Back Again" was recorded in January during what were Lesh's first sessions since the Dead's final studio set, 1989's "Built to Last" (Arista). The set features a combination of new songs (some of which have been road-tested during Lesh & Friends tours) as well as a version of the Grateful Dead track "Liberty." The latter was previously made available as a Grateful Dead rehearsal recording included on Arista's 1999 box set "So Many Roads (1965-1995)."

Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter contributed to six of the album's 11 tracks. "It's like a new isotopes of rock and roll matter has entered the universe," Hunter wrote of hearing the rough mixes of the Lesh & Friends album. "Or like a piece of the sun split off and started circling the moon. A whole new beginning based on the old premises, unexpectable if not simply inconceivable at this age and date, but there it is!"

A special edition of "There and Back Again" featuring an extra track will be available only from Lesh's official Web site. The site will also offer the disc beginning April 16, more than five weeks prior to its release to retailers. Those who purchase the disc via the site will be entered into a contest to win instruments, posters, and CDs signed by members of the band, or one of five framed music and lyrics sheets signed by Lesh. One grand prize winner will receive a personal tour of the Grateful Dead Headquarters and its legendary tape vault conducted by Lesh.

Lesh & Friends will support the album with an extensive spring and summer North American tour that will follow May 4-5 appearances at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The tour will get underway May 22 in Santa Fe, N.M., and run through a July 31 finale in Dallas.

Along the way, the group will hook up with the Allman Brothers for a half-dozen dates, including a June 28 appearance at Milwaukee's annual Summerfest. Lesh & Friends will also spend two days at the July 5-6 Gathering of the Vibes festival in Mariaville, N.Y.

Phil Lesh & Friends previously released one album, 1999's two-disc live set "Love Will See You Through" (Arista). That set featured a different list of collaborators, including guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna), drummer Prairie Prince (Tubes, Todd Rundgren), vocalist Zoe Ellis, guitarist Steve Kimock (Zero), and bassist/keyboardist Pete Sears (Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Hot Tuna).

Here is the "There and Back Again" track listing:

"Celebration" (Lesh/Hunter)
"Night of a Thousand Stars" (Lesh/Haynes/Hunter)
"The Real Thing" (Haynes)
"Again and Again" (Herring/Hunter)
"No More Do I" (Lesh/Hunter)
"Patchwork Quilt" (Haynes)
"Liberty" (Garcia/Hunter)
"Midnight Train" (Lesh)
"Leave Me Out of This" (Barraco/Mattson)
"Welcome to the Underground" (Haynes)
"Rock-n-Roll Blues" (Lesh/Hunter)

Here are Phil Lesh & Friends' summer tour dates:

May 4: New Orleans (Jazz & Heritage Festival, Municipal Auditorium)
May 5: New Orleans (Jazz & Heritage Festival, Acura Stage)
May 22: Santa Fe, N.M. (Paolo Soleri)
May 23: Phoenix (Dodge Theater)
May 24: San Diego (Open Air Theater)
May 25: Los Angeles (Greek Theater)
May 26: Las Vegas (the Joint)
May 28: Eugene, Ore. (MacArthur Court)
May 29: Portland, Ore. (Roseland Theater)
May 31-June 1: Berkeley, Calif. (Greek Theater)
June 2: Palo Alto, Calif. (Frost Amphitheater)
June 27: Minneapolis (Target Center; w/Allman Brothers Band)
June 28: Milwaukee (Summerfest; w/Allman Brothers)
June 29: Indianapolis (Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; w/Allman Brothers)
June 30: Detroit (DTE Energy Music Theater; w/Allman Brothers)
July 2: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (Blossom Music Center (w/Allman Brothers)
July 3: Cincinnati (Riverbend Amphitheater; w/Allman Brothers)
July 5-6: Mariaville, N.Y. (Gathering of the Vibes)
July 8: Pittsburgh (Amphitheater @ Station Square)
July 9: Toronto (Molson Amphitheater)
July 10: Darien Center, N.Y. (Darien Lakes Performing Arts Center)
July 12: Holmdel, N.J. (PNC Bank Arts Center)
July 13: Boston (Tweeter Center)
July 14: Wantagh, N.Y. (Jones Beach)
July 16: Wilkes Barre, Pa. (First Union Arena)
July 18: Hartford, Conn. (the Meadows)
July 19: Hershey, Pa. (HersheyPark Star Pavilion)
July 20: Camden, N.J. (Tweeter Center)
July 21: Columbia, Md. (Merriweather Post Pavilion)
July 23: Virginia Beach, Va. (Verizon Wireless Amphitheater)
July 25: Raleigh, N.C. (Alltel Pavilion @ Walnut Creek)
July 26: Charlotte, N.C. (Verizon Wireless Amphitheater)
July 27: Atlanta (HiFi Buys Amphitheater)
July 28: West Palm Beach, Fla. (Mars Music Amphitheater)
July 30: Austin, Texas (the Backyard)
July 31: Dallas (NextStage Theater)