Friday, November 25, 2005

Phil Lesh is always on the lookout for new Friends

From Boston Globe:

Phil Lesh is always on the lookout for new Friends
By Steve Morse, Globe Staff November 25, 2005

Phil Lesh was a famed innovator in the Grateful Dead -- and he has applied that same skill in forming his later solo bands. The many versions of his rotating group Phil Lesh & Friends have been startling -- and this year he found his finest singer yet in Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes.

''Chris knows so many songs," says Lesh. ''He's almost an encyclopedia of roots and rock music. He wants to bring in a whole bunch of songs that I wouldn't have thought about doing -- like old, obscure R&B tunes and old rock tunes and even bluegrass stuff. . . . And when he sings one of the Grateful Dead songs, he gives it his all."

The genesis of Lesh's latest Friends, which brings the ''Shadow of the Moon Winter Tour 2005" to the Agganis Arena on Thursday, occurred at the Jammy Awards last spring in New York. Lesh served as host, and Robinson performed with him. And Lesh ran into longtime Bob Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, another new member of the Friends.

''At the Jammys, they also set me up to play with Ryan Adams, John Mayer, and Buddy Guy," says Lesh. ''And Larry was there hanging out. We spent some time back in the dressing room conversing, and it turns out that I'm going to be working with all of those guys that I first made contact with at the Jammys. John Mayer is coming out to do our New Year's Eve show. . . . And I already did a thing with Ryan in the summer, and now Larry is with the band for this tour and even beyond, maybe. So I'm going to have to keep going back to the Jammys."

Good timing has been on Lesh's side. Campbell, for instance, is no longer in Dylan's band, so he was available.
''It's relatively recent that they parted ways," Lesh says. ''But Larry is a freelancer now. He's been doing a lot of work with Emmylou Harris and did some work with Elvis Costello. His range is immense and he plays all these different instruments."

Lesh is obviously thrilled with his new band -- and he's enjoying a general upswing keyed by his improving health. After battling hepatitis and getting a liver transplant, he is recovering, and his doctors have been pleased. ''All my numbers are good, and everything is coming up roses," he says.

Lesh also became a best-selling author this year with ''Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead." It's a look back at the salad days of the Dead, recalling the era of the ''Trips Festival" and the psychedelic antics of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. One of the funniest lines in the book is Lesh's realization: ''Man cannot live by hallucinations alone."

''I wrote every word myself," he says. ''The amazing thing was how vivid all my memories were."

As for the remaining members of the Dead, Lesh says he expects they may play together at another ''Terrapin Station" family weekend next summer at Alpine Valley, Wis., where they held a similar reunion in 2002.

Breaking up is hard to do: The duo Eastmountainsouth, consisting of Southern gothic-folkies Peter Bradley Adams and Kat Maslich, has regrettably called it quits. But Adams is marching on solo and starts a Monday residency at the Paradise Lounge next week. ''The whole thing with Eastmountainsouth happened so fast," he says. ''It was a very difficult decision to go solo." He has landed on his feet with the ''Peter Bradley Adams EP," featuring collaborations with producer Kevin Killen, who has worked with U2 and Peter Gabriel. It's a beautiful set of original Americana music. It not only confirms that the dreamy-voiced Adams is still an artist to follow but also foreshadows a full-length solo CD coming next year.

Bits and pieces: The buzzy Bleedin Bleedins play an acoustic set at ZuZu! on Dec. 7 to celebrate their debut CD, ''Life Without Computers." . . . Beefy DC, the Downbeat 5, Fighting Cocks, and Bryan McPherson are at Johnny D's Dec. 14 to benefit Right Turn, Inc., which provides addiction treatment to artists . . . Tonight: Piebald at the Middle East Downstairs and Rocketscience Upstairs, Dark Star Orchestra at the Palladium in Worcester, Beatlejuice opens two nights at Johnny D's, and Badfish (a Sublime tribute band) rocks Harpers Ferry . . . Tomorrow: Band to watch Giant Drag hits the Middle East Upstairs, the Cranktones belt out rockabilly at Toad, and Muck and the Mires, the Konks, and Coffin Lids shake up Great Scott.


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