Sunday, October 4, 2009

Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welborne-Guitarist and Bandleader Extraordinaire

Here's the Papa Mali Homepage:

News of the great 2009 ACL performance of Malcolm Welborne, better known to his fans as Papa Mali, was hitting the cable Texas tv news shows today, and they were mentioning that Papa Mali's new band has Greatful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. Indeed, this band has done a couple of gigs together, as Relix magazine said last month:

Papa Mali spent the past week in Colorado, playing in a band that also includes Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, bassist Reed Mathis and keyboardist Matt Hubbard. The band headlined Boulder, CO’s Boulder Theater early in the weekend, offering a set that mixed Dead covers and songs long associated with the group like “Mr. Charlie,” “Turn On Your Love Light” and “I Know You Rider” with New Orleans standards and a few originals. At the start of the group’s second set, Anders Beck (dobro) and Paul Hoffman (mandolin) of the Kalamazoo, MI-based Greensky Bluegrass also took the stage with the group for “Friend Of The Devil.” Papa Mali will play a free show in at Austin’s Waterloo Park on August 12 as part of KGSR’s Blues On The Green.

I've been a follower and fan of Malcolm since the mid-80's, during his work with the reggae band Killer Bees. In the late 80's and early 90's, you could often find him jamming around Austin with a marvelous ska band that was aptly named "House In Orbit". Both Chris Thomas [King], who fronted an Austin HQ'd band in this time period, and Papa Mali would often sit in with HIO, and the results were always explosive.

Like so many Austin acts over the years, it's the live gigs with the guest artists, who often burn as players, leading to gigs with special intensity and feeling that is rarely able to be captured in the studio.

Next up for Papa Mali was his band Papa Mali and the Instigators. The original lineup featured drum wunderkind Barry "Frosty" Smith. The lineup of this stage of his bands often varied, but as long as Papa Mali was at the guitar helm you could be guaranteed rocking and swinging and bluesy guitar playing, with vocals to match.

His originals are rocking. His covers are simply devastatingly rocking and bring new life to old songs. Witness his 2005 and 2006 treatment of "When the Levee Broke", originally by Led Zeppelin, which he began doing when playing with the one of the hurricanes displaced Neville brother's in Austin.
During the early 2000's, he was also producing CD's for various folks. My favorite was Big Delta by Omar and the Howlers. Of course, Papa Mali also played on the CD as well, joining Omar and the "legendarys" Frosty and Terry Bozzio, who shared drum duties. Roscoe Beck rounded out the band on bass.
About that time, Papa Mali began playing as Papa Mali 3, a trio with guitar, bass and drums. I've got some of the live shows on CD that he was doing back then, and they are excellanto.
Malcolm can soulfully play the guitar. His slide work is masterful, and he skips between styles as effortlessly as an eagle in flight. Much of what he does is what I call Gulf Coast blues tinged music, heavy on the NOLA contributions and sprinkled with a lot of what can only be called soul.
My favorite Malcolm CD is the one pictured above, called Thunder Chicken. That is some soulful stuff. Featuring Frosty on drums, you can't go wrong with players of this caliber, but the originals and few covers are so soulfully executed that you would think you were in a NOLA Quarter bar on a cold, rainy Sunday night in a small bar listening to a stellar band.
I've seen him in the French Quarter when it was raining and cold and mostly empty in the clubs. I've seen him at the downstairs Fitzgerald's in Houston on another cold and rainy night where there was a crowd of about six. He played his heart out then like he does now when he plays festivals now for thousands.
I've seen him at now defunct Austin venues like The Liberty Lunch, The Black Cat Lounge and the legendary Mercado Caribe. When in Austin now, you can often find him at The Saxon Pub. I suspect he sometimes plays Antone's, but I'm not so sure of that. He's been doing lots of road work the past few years, and I'm always reading about his stellar performance at some far away festival.
The one word that I have not yet used to describe Papa Mali is the word "FUNKY". And he is all that when it comes to being funky.
Although Papa Mali and Bill K from the Dead have been jamming together for over a year, here's a press release from Bill's website talking about the ACL gig. Bill mentions the awesome Robb Kidd, who is a tremendous drummer as well.
Monday, September 28, 2009 ~ Press ReleaseBill Kreutzmann with Papa MaliPapa Mali will be performing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in front of his hometown crowd on Oct. 3, 2009. This will be his second appearance at the event which drew a crowd of over 218,000 fans last year and was ranked #5 on Billboard’s top festivals of 2008. This time around, Papa has pulled out all the stops and invited his musical compatriot Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead, BK3) to play drums on the set. Performing alongside Papa and Bill will be longtime Papa Mali drummer Robb Kidd (look for some double kit action), Matt Perrine (Bonerama) on sousaphone and Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson and Friends) on keyboards, harmonica and trombone. A surprise guest wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities. This year’s ACL fest will also feature Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Beastie Boys, Kings of Leon and numerous other monsters of the scene.Papa Mali, Bill Kreutzmann and Matt Hubbard will then head directly into the studio to record their new CD along with Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green) on bass. The sessions will be made up almost entirely of new material that has been co-written by Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan lyricist) and Papa Mali. The new CD is expected to be released in early 2010. Papa Mali featuring Bill Kreutzmann’s next gig will be October 31 and November 1 at the Las Tortugas Festival in Yosemite National Park. If you are looking for something to do on Halloween, come get your freak on in one of the most striking locations in the country.

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