The story goes that when he was 16 years old, Bob Weir met Jerry Garcia, and the Grateful Dead's long, strange trip began. Now, with the forthcoming release of Blue Mountain, Weir's first new solo album since 1978's Heaven Helps The Fool, comes a little pre-Dead history.
The summer Weir was 15, he ran away from home to be a cowboy. He ended up in Wyoming on a working ranch with guys who, at day's end, would sit long into the night around a campfire — throwing sparks into the dark, singing and telling tales.
Weir held that summer in his head until recently, when his new buddies in The National proposed a "cowboy album." He started working on Blue Mountain with Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott Devendorf, as well as lyricist Josh Ritter and songwriter-producer Josh Kaufman. The recordings for the album took shape at studios in San Rafael, Calif., and Woodstock, N.Y.
"Lay My Lily Down," written with Ritter and Kaufman, sounds like a traditional song. It's a haunting tune, sung in the voice of a father as he buries his daughter. The powerful backing music is a dense, steadily building meld of minor-key guitars.
Blue Mountain comes out Sept. 30, and Weir sets off on the already sold-out "Campfire Tour" in October. He will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Americana Music Association's Americana Honors & Awards ceremony in Nashville, to be webcast on NPR Music on Wednesday, Sept. 21.