Columbia Records has created a joint venture label with Phil Lesh, bassist of the Grateful Dead, that will release the first studio recording of Phil Lesh & Friends, “There and Back Again,” on May 21.
Lapis Music intends “to search out new, vital and uncompromising music,” according to the diskery. Lesh will act as creative adviser. Despite an extensive recording career, Lesh has never released a studio album under his own name; the closest was the experimental side project “Seastones” that he led in 1975.
The first release will feature six compositions with words by Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, including “Liberty,” a Dead tune co-written by Jerry Garcia that never made it beyond a demo tape. “There and Back Again” is produced by Don Gehman (Hootie & the Blowfish, John Mellencamp, R.E.M.)
Phil Lesh & Friends, which have been the most successful live attraction since the demise of the Dead nearly seven years ago, will launch a 36–city tour on May 22 in Santa Fe, N.M. Lesh & Friends play the Greek Theater in L.A. on May 25.
Earlier this year, Columbia inked another San Francisco vet, Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. His recording, “Blue Country Heart, will consist of rural blues tunes from the 1920s and ’30s and is slated for a June release.