Even at 68 years old, Bob Weir is still expanding his sound. Blue Mountain, the newest release from the guitarist and vocalist of the Grateful Dead, is nothing like a Dead album: It’s more like a National record written by John Denver. Weir combines the sound of contemporary Americana with the rustic sound of folk rock and slows everything down, creating a solemn and compelling collection of songs.
“Only a River,” which is co-written with Josh Ritter, is a highlight of Blue Mountain. It’s a vulnerable, reflective track, in which Weir contemplates his deep connection to the American West. It sounds like it could have been recorded from the top of a mountain, with the light ringing of the guitars fading in and out like half-forgotten memories. As Weir sings, “Only a river going to make things right,” he evokes a sense of nostalgia for Shenandoah, even if the listener hasn’t been there.