Putting thunder in the chicken and water in the dreams
If it’s rootsy, greasy juke-joint funk, it must be Malcolm Welbourne.
Welbourne, known as both Papa Mali and the master of ceremonies, comes to Vail with his newest project, the Papa Mali Trio. They play for today’s free Street Beat concert at Check Point Charlie. The music begins at 6 p.m.
The Mississippi-born musician has Cajun in his blood, which means he’s got fanfare to spare.
“It’s a very warm vibe,” said Welbourne. “Especially in this cold weather, bring yourself out and we’ll warm you up.”
Welbourne started playing guitar when he was 4. It took him another four years to discover the blues. Raised in Shreveport, absorbing the blues along Bayou Pierre was simply what happened. “It was just as much a matter of course as chasing the mosquito fogging truck with friends – and equally intoxicating,” says his Web site. He spent his summers with his grandparents in New Orleans, giving him an open door to the sounds of the Crescent City. Funk, blues, swamp, jazz – they all made a mark on the musician.
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His first album, “Thunder Chicken,” found favor with critics and fans alike. He’s working on a second album with the same producer, Dan Prothero. Though he won’t give up the title, the songs have a common lyrical element.
“A lot of these songs are tied in with one another,” said Melbourne. “They have recurring themes of dreams and flying and water. I don’t want to say more than that, because they ought to speak for themselves. But they’re all metaphors for what’s going on.”
As a songwriter, part of Welbourne’s job is to pay attention to the “strange things and cosmic signs” the universe dishes out on any given day. More song-oriented than “Thunder Chicken,” the new album reflects a slew of new songs for the musician.
Papa Mali was a nickname given to him long ago, when he was touring with reggae group Burning Spear.
“You don’t choose your nickname, other people do,” he said. “It just stuck.”
The Papa Mali Trio includes Welbourne on lead vocals and slide guitar, Chris Grady on bass and Robbie Kidd on drums.
“We play mostly original songs that have a swampy funk feel to them,” said Welbourne.
He’s called Austin, Texas, his home now for awhile. Though a different musical atmosphere than New Orleans, it’s still ripe and busy.
“Austin’s always been a town that prided itself on original music,” he said. “I don’t think any cover band would ever make it. So it’s great. It lets me do what I want to do.”
And what’s that?
“I want to make records and write songs and play for people,” he said without hesitation.
Papa Mali Trio
Today, 6 p.m.
Check Point Charlie, Vail Village