Bob Weir "Blue Mountain"

As he approaches his seventieth year, Bob Weir takes a nostalgic, whimsical trek through his cowpoke youth on the Wyoming range. Working with producer and National band member Josh Kaufman, and singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, Weir captures the campfire comradery and tumbleweed existence he experienced as a green fifteen year-old. Singing cowboy songs was a preferred route of communication for the old ranch hands. Weir, now a grizzled troubadour, pays homage to those ghosts of the high plains with songs that corral the big sky country and the souls who worked it.

The music is a collaborative effort between Weir, Kaufman, and Ritter, and pulls heavily from folk traditions. “Only a River” is built around a borrowed stanza from “Shenandoah.” Josh Ritter is responsible for the lyrics on seven tracks, and contributes to rest with one exception. As a native of Idaho, he easily grasps the emotional impact of wide open spaces and relates those to the barren places in the heart. Weir and A.J. Santella are responsible for “Ki-Yi Bossie” the most cowboy-oriented ballad on album. It features the yodeling of Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and The Ramblin’ Jackernacle Choir. Bryce and Aaron Dessner, also of The National, get a chance to chip in, and The Bandana Splits embroider songs with a female vocals.

Weir’s vocals match the dusty places of his songs. His world-weary, ragged at the edges voice embodies the characters portrayed in songs about ghost towns, saloons, and bunk houses. You can almost imagine the coyotes howling in harmony.

Rosemary Welsch (The Afternoon Mix)