7 Walkers, "7 Walkers"

79 Billboard Rating

Grateful Dead spinoffs tend to be hit-and-miss affairs. But in 7 Walkers, Dead percussionist Bill Kreutzmann has hit pay dirt. The well-credentialed group-fronted by Louisiana singer/guitarist Papa Mali and now including Meters bassist George Porter (who appears on only one of the debut album's 13 tracks)-plays it loose and rootsy in a manner Deadheads will certainly find appealing, especially with Robert Hunter writing lyrics. The track "King Cotton Blues" (featuring Willie Nelson) hews closer to the Band, while 7 Walkers' "open love letter" to Louisiana and New Orleans embraces the exotic trancy-ness of the voodoo ode "Chingo!," the brassy buoyancy of "New Orleans Crawl," the soulful tone poem vibe of "Louisiana Rain," the roadhouse shuffle of "Hey Bo Diddle" and the marching funk of "7 Walkers." And you'll seldom find a love song more sweet and unconditional than "Evangeline." A fine soundtrack for Louisiana's continuing return to glory.

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