When Bob Weir used the occasion of his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Awards to pay tribute to Merle Haggard, he tapped into in his mid-'60s San Francisco roots.
Weir and the rest of the Grateful Dead were just learning to tell stories of their own when they fell under the spell of the Hag's "Mama Tried," a statement to his mother about being the man he was, despite her best intentions. It acts as both acceptance and apology, with emotionally complex lyrics set to a galloping country rhythm section. (The Dead would also cover Haggard's achingly beautiful jailhouse dirge "Sing Me Back Home," based on the short time he spent in San Quentin State Prison as a young man.)
This performance and video from an upcoming episode of Austin City Limits (PBS) is an exquisite bit of synergy: Haggard, a master storyteller and one of the victims of 2016's relentless death toll, being heralded by Weir, whose recent new album of original music, Blue Mountain, clearly points out he is also a storyteller for the ages.
ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2016 premieres Nov. 19 on PBS. Check local listings for air dates and times.