New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)by Jesse Jarnow Birthed (as they say) because Jerry Garcia wanted an outlet to play pedal steel, David Nelson and John “Marmaduke” Dawson probably would’ve started a band anyway, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage have galloped onward for most of the past four decades. Buddy Cage replaced Garcia in ’72 and Marmaduke died in 2009, but semi-unretired Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter-who penned seven songs with Nelson, steeped in the same Bay Area folkwaters as Garcia and Hunter themselves-is on board for this incarnation. The glorious centerpiece is “Suite at the Mission,” ringing like a lost Garcia/Hunter number cut from the same existential cloth as “Wharf Rat,” “Mission in the Rain” and countless others, weary and triumphantly defiant. Cage’s pedal steel lays a tearful bed for Nelson’s craggy delivery; Hunter’s familiar world opens up instantly. In somewhat looser form elsewhere (like the F-bombed “No Time”), Hunter and the New Riders exude boogie wisdom of the “U.S. Blues.” The non-Hunter tunes aren’t nearly as elegant, but that’s not their fault, and it’s a welcome dispatch from Hunter and the New Riders’ American West as sunset approaches.
Times Record News
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)
By Don Chance
With legendary favorite bar band songs such as “Panama Red” and “Glendale Train” to their credit, the original country rocking New Riders of the Purple Sage band is back with “17 Pine Avenue,” and in its sixth continuous decade in the business, the group is still influencing long-haired country pickers.
Originally started as a way for Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia to practice playing his new pedal steel guitar in a group setting, The New Riders have always adhered to a simple formula: Rock ‘em, but keep it country, too. And “17 Pine Avenue” follows the formula to perfection.
Kicking strong with “Prisoner of Freedom,” the set offers a nice variety California country/rock moods.
With songs like “Fivio,” “Just the Way It Goes,” “Down for the Ride,” “Suite at the Mission,” “I Know There’s Someone Else” and the swinging title track, the New Riders show they can still teach even the Red Dirt crowd something about mixing country music with rock ‘n’ roll.
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)
By Ricky Flake
This week’s Sound Check begins with the first release in Johnny Cash’s 80th birthday celebration, which is fittingly a collection of gospel recordings and a new release by New Riders of the Purple Sage, 17 Pine Avenue.
This March 6 CD is the first release by the New Riders since 2009, and I’m surprised that there was one of such recent vintage. They released their eponymous debut album in September 1971 after being signed by Clive Davis to Columbia.
Many years and personnel shakeups later, here’s a new one with original members David Nelson (guitar/vocals) and Buddy Cage (pedal steel) supplemented by Michael Falzarano (guitar/vocals), Ronnie Penque (bass/vocals) and Johnny Markowski (drums/vocals). Former Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter adds words to Nelson’s compositions.
Highlights of this old-fashioned country-rock album include the boogie-based opener, “Prisoner of Freedom,” the easy-swinging title song, the lengthy “Suite at the Mission” and Cage’s pedal steel, which is the band’s not-so-secret weapon.
Fans of classic country-rock will enjoy this recording.
The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)
by Mark S. Tucker
could say the New Riders of the Purple Sage have been pretty damn successful, and this latest release, 17 Pine Avenue, does nothing to tarnish that record—in fact pretty much epitomizes what the ensemble has always been about—being a very impressive disc that can still boast the presence of founding members David Nelson and Buddy Cage along with the same three cats who made 2009′s Where I Come From a success. More, Robert Hunter is rock solid with the band and wrote or co-wrote over half the cuts here. From the outset, Prisoner of Freedom, Pine Avenue is a groove-filled, rollicking, rocking, boot-scooting, solid set of Americana roots music that’ll have you up out of the armchair and onto the nearest rug, cutting a high-stepping floor waltz to beat the band.
In fact, as someone who has NRPS’s entire early catalogue, Pine Avenue is every inch as good as the best of that period, a time still fondly recalled by many. Nelson’s and Michael Falzarano’s guitar licks are dead nuts on the money, dusty as a familiar trail and golden as the sun just setting into a reddening horizon, while Cage’s pedal steel is supernaturally liquid. When he takes his solos, as in Suite at the Mission, a killer layback, you can almost walk through wheatfields and byways, hound dog baying in the distance, quail scurrying in the underbrush. Not a cut here is less than superb, and if there’s any justice in the music world, releases like this will serve to re-invigorate the fading cowpunk movement ’cause this one’s going to stun listeners in their tracks.
Yep, if the Baby Boom generation is fated to have to go the way of all flesh, then they’re sure as hell going to go out with style on more than one front…and it’ll surely be a while before the Reaper swings that scythe. He’ll be too damn busy gittin’ down with everyone else the moment this disc comes pouring out of the speakers. Throwing back that hood and sashaying around the barroom, Ol’ Dan Scratch’ll be hootin’ ‘n hollerin’ like there was no tomorrow. Someone pass the gaunt bastard a doob, slip a leetle Jack Black in his Pepsi, and make sure the jukebox is cued to a non-stop repeat of this CD; we just might see a surcease wherein the underworld’s grateful dead sigh and sit back, a kingfish or two wing into the rafters, and a gaggle of lost planet airmen mosey on through the back door to sit, grin, and reminisce about the good ol’ days.
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)By Robbie Gerson New Riders Of The Purple Sage were a counterculture institution… Whether they are referred to as country rock or psychedelic folk, New Riders Of The Purple Sage were an influential presence in the merging of sixties music with traditional country. In the late 60s and early seventies, groups like The Flying Burrito Brothers, Dillard Clark, The Band, Gram Parsons and even Bob Dylan immersed themselves in Western culture. On the San Francisco scene, The Grateful Dead (in particular Jerry Garcia who took up the pedal steel guitar, and earlier the banjo) developed a relationship with a group of musicians that would eventually become New Riders Of The Purple Sage. David Nelson and John Dawson (who introduced the music of Bakersfield legends Buck Owens and Merle Haggard to the “community”) formed a band that would include (among many), Robert Hunter (future Dead lyricist), Spencer Dryden (Jefferson Airplane drummer), Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Garcia. They recorded several albums including the self-titled debut, Gypsy Cowboy and Panama Red which featured the classic title track. In 2005, the latest reincarnation of the band re-formed and started touring. 17 Pine Avenue is the current release from New Riders, and they haven’t missed a beat. Eleven original compositions (including seven with lyrics by Hunter) and one cover represent country rock at its best. The opening track, “Prisoner Of Freedom” manifests the outlaw vibe of forty years past with a guitar-laden medium tempo and sly vocals (Nelson). The ragged harmonies are sublimely weary. Another Nelson/Hunter tune (“Message In A Bottle”) is up tempo zydeco with an engaging pedal steel (Buddy Cage) and a hard-driving rhythm section (Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski). The music has a timeless, listenable feel. The Western imagery and arrangements are transformative…it could be 1970 with references to trucks, passages of time and nonconformity. The identification with bandit lore is evident on “No Time” with visions of flying bullets, a hanging tree and “running out of time.” Continuing the Nelson/Hunter muse is the hard-rocking “Six Of One” with the humorous refrain, “why do you complain, when I’m doin’ my best?”. The dual electric guitars of Nelson and Michael Falzarano are infectious. In a change of pace, “Suite At The Mission” is melancholic and eternally defiant. “Fivio” tries to capture the romantic idealism of the road with unpretentious conviction. At the core of this album is a veteran road-tested band that believes in their music. They are comfortable with gentle country swing (“Down For The Ride”, a Markowski number), pure country talkin’ blues (“Truth Is Dead”) or Saturday night dance music (“Just The Way It Goes” by Falzarano). Nostalgia enthusiasts will appreciate the Southwestern-tinged, mind-bending cover art of Kevin Morgan. New Riders Of The Purple Sage were a counterculture institution. 17 Pine Avenue will remind the public that they are simply a great band. (David Nelson – guitar, vocals; Buddy Cage – pedal steel guitar; Michael Falzarano – guitar, vocals; Ronnie Penque – bass, vocals; Johnny Markowski – drums, vocals; Professor Louie – Hammond Organ, accordion; Lizzy Friel – vocals; Christian Cassan – percussion.
Classic Rock Revisited
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)By Jeb Wright
New Riders began life as a side band for Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. When David Nelson joined the new group, New Riders became a unique band that mixed acoustic music with electric and became their own entity. Garcia left and the band carried on creating hippy rock and garnering a large audience.
The new album continues in the fine tradition of the band proving that these guys are still in it for the right reasons. This is not a bunch of grandpas reliving the glory days with failing faculties. New Riders of the Purple Sage are a band with a musical vision and they are still quite capable of fulfilling that vision. The new disc is every bit as sharp as anything they have done in their history.
The band comes out of the box quickly on this one with “Prisoner of Freedom.” This is a powerful tune and one of seven new tunes written by Nelson and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Hunter remains as a wordsmith of unequalled talent and his involvement on the album makes this one even more special.
The album flows from beginning to end, mixing electric with acoustic just the way the debut did. This is a band who still feel every note.
The Dirty Low Down
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)By Robert Carraher
….. A reconstituted line-up of the New Riders began touring in late 2005. It features David Nelson and Buddy Cage, alongside guitarist Michael Falzarano (formerly of Hot Tuna), bassist Ronnie Penque, and drummer Johnny Markowski who all contribute to this great renaissance to the ground breaking psychedelic act.
17 Pine Avenue includes 12 brand new songs from the originators of country-delic music (I just made that word up). And, it is like being transported back to those ‘hazy’ days of the summer of love. “Prisoner Of Freedom” not only speaks to the state of the world today, but would have been right at home at Woodstock. Not surprisingly, Robert Hunter who so long ago played with the band and will go down in history as the lyricist for so many great Grateful Dead songs does the same on seven of the tunes here.
“Message In A Bottle’ is a decidedly Zydeco/Cajun flavored ode to missing the point of messages but more than that lost chances in life and times. “ It might have peace and freedom It might have been peace and freedom, I ain’t going to grieve no more…” “Just The Way It Goes” is a Falzarano penned tune, a good-bye to love and what was never meant to be. The title tune is a shuffle that would feel right at home in a Grateful Dead set. “Down For The Ride” is a ballad written by Markowski about love and the hope that it lasts. Are you down for the ride?
“No Time” reminds us that this ain’t no time to fuck around. The album is filled with great tunes that remind us how good it was back then and how pertinent those bands are still today. The lyrics and the music are still filled with double entendre and innuendo, the message is simple, the trip is fun The New Riders manage the seemingly impossible. they remained true to the original musical vision and integrity without becoming outdated or archaic in the process. This ain’t no nostalgia act, they still have songs with messages for today.
New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Long may they ride. To 17 Pine Avenue or wherever. “ When the bullets have left the gun. There ain’t no time to duck. Do not ask what must be done. Just drive the fuckin’ truck!”.
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)By Music Frenzy John
Country rock or psychedelic Americana. Call it what you wish but the latest album from the New Riders of the Purple Sage “17 Pine Avenue” is fun, danceable, enjoyable, high-quality music. The album features 12 new songs, 7 of which were written by David Nelson and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
The title track “17 Pine Avenue” is such a groovy track that I literally played it 4 times in a row! Few songs exude “cool” through its music or lyrics. This track does it through both. It has a rhythm that makes you want to strut around town while singing its opening lyrics “Number 17 Pine Avenue. Corner of Southwest and Coochie Coo.” It truly sounds like every single person playing on that song is having one hell of a time.
The album was recorded at Forge Recording by Larry Levin and Brad Kotzmoyer, mastered by Ed Littman, and produced by Michael Falzarano. I mention this because the sound quality of this recording is superior. I dare anyone to listen to the drums on “Fivio” and tell me that they aren’t some of the best sounding drums put down by any band. The tone, the clarity, and just the way Johnny Markowski plays them left me tuned in to the drums on every song. The pedal steel as played by Buddy Cage helps give the record that country sound.
Band mainstay David Nelson’s vocals shine throughout the album. His voice is strong and at some points even soothing as he leads his band mates through these songs that have a Travelling Wilburys-ish feel but are 100% New Riders of the Purple Sage!
New Riders of the Purple Sage – 17 PINE AVENUE (Woodstock Records)
By Brian Robbins
Listen: if somehow you’ve missed crossing paths with the New Riders Of The Purple Sage since their 2005 renaissance, then you need to understand something. This is not a band of tired, tie-dyed troubadours seeing out their later years, going through the motions and rehashing their greatest hits – these crazy bastards are still full of life; full of fire; full of music. 17 Pine Avenue is the latest round of proof: a killer studio album featuring a dozen cuts that show off the depth of the band’s talent and their passion for what they’re doing. In short, this is no oldies band, boys and girls – this is a happening thang. Guitarist Michael Falzarano did duty on both sides of the glass for 17 Pine Avenue, handling production chores as well as acting as the liaison between the rhythm of the engine room (drummer Johnny Markowski and bassist Ronnie Penque) and the pickers in the wheelhouse (guitarist David Nelson and Buddy Cage on pedal steel). Keep an ear out for Falzarano’s off-mic heys and yelps, ushering in Nelson’s B-bender Tele or Cage’s steel … they’re little, tiny windows into the kind of excitement this bunch still feels when they’re in the heat of a jam. The album’s mix is just right: fairly dry and immediate, with a few wisps of psychedelic weirdness here and there – but nary a studio trick in sight. (None needed: this is simply a matter of a band of vets playing their asses off and sounding like they’re having a good time doing it.) Johnny Markowski contributes a pair of tunes to 17 Pine Avenue : Down For The Ride contains just the right balance of weariness, sweetness, coolness, and hope, combined with a draw-off-and-let-it-fly singalong chorus and a pedal steel break by the legendary Cage that’ll break your goddamn heart. “I Know There’s Someone Else” finds Markowski channeling the late, great Marmaduke Dawson with the sort of headneck romp that made the Riders famous in the first place. (Catch the cool Hammond work by guest Professor Louie and the spark-throwing interplay between Cage and Nelson in the song’s final minute.) Ronnie Penque (he of the serpentine, syrupy bass lines that both anchor the weirdness and encourage it) takes the lead on “Shake That Thing”, a funky, nasty shimmyshake with psychedelic undertones. Falzarano’s “Just The Way It Goes” is chock full of I-wish-you-well-but-I’ve-had-enough-of-this-shit bittersweetness and at least two arms’ worth of tattoo material (example: “I’ve got my ducks in a row/Now I’m gonna shoot ‘em down”). His reworking of the old traditional “Truth Is Dead” takes things home with a message that’s as much a challenge as it is a warning. “Hey, darlin’ … wanna dance?” asks Falzarano just before the fade, the consummate cosmic cowboy Nero. And then you have the tunes penned by David Nelson and the legendary Robert Hunter – a combination of talents that has as much to do with friendship as it does art. Remember, folks – Nelson was part of that Bay Area picking circle with Hunter and a young lad by the name of Garcia all those many moons ago. Roots run deep; and the proof’s in the music, my friend.
As with so, so many of his collaborations with Jerry Garcia, Hunter’s lyrics for the New Riders often conjure up familiar feelings of “Don’t I know this? Haven’t I been here before? But how could I have?” Consider “Fivio” (infused with tasty bits of Cage’s pedal steel), which sounds like it might have been penned in the shade of an apple tree 130 years ago. The lovely “Suite At The Mission” is chock-bursting full of big pictures and even bigger characters. Or how about the title song, a total “Cosmic Charlie”-style Crumbwalk that’s loaded with wicked wordplay and rubber-legged-and-droopy-eyed grins. “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,” indeed. Who’d have thought one would ever use the word “sexy” in a New Riders review? Well, you tell me: crank up the album opener “Prisoner Of Freedom” and let that infectious head-bopping groove (courtesy of Markowski and Penque) settle into your bones. When they let Cage loose after the first chorus, the fuzz-out snarl of his pedal steel is just absolutely nasty – I’m talking make-you-blush filthy here, folks. Jesus … Professor Louie’s accordion is the perfect addition to the happy gumbo of “Message In A Bottle”. And if you want to hear someone play the living dogsnot out of a B-bender Telecaster, check out Nelson’s solo at the 2:55 mark of “Six Of One”. (All you kids out there pay attention and learn yerselves something.)Getting older? Who says?
I’ll have whatever they’re having, barkeep. Put it in a bag for me and I’ll take it to 17 Pine Avenue.
Denver Westworld Music, Best of 2009 1/07/10
Where I Come From (WoodstockRecords). It’s been more than three decades since the New Riders first fused psychedelia and country (with a little help from Jerry Garcia), and on Where I Come From, the band still proves plenty capable of digging into a good jam and letting it all hang out. —
by Rich and Laura Lynch
THE NEW RIDERS RIDE ON
with New and Old Classics at Mexicali Live!
The New Riders of The Purple Sage blends blues, country, jam and psychedelic rock in an array of colorful covers and originals. Where I Come From, released in 2009 (review below), melds the classic NRPS sound in 12 compelling contemporary compositions. When NRPS returned to Mexicali Live in Teaneck, New Jersey on September 18, 2009 they we’re playing in honor of a lost family member. Among the packed stage full of gear and instruments were two prominent photos of band co-founder John “Marmaduke” Dawson who recently succumbed to a longtime illness.
“His songs inspired us in so many ways. His energy, passion and commitment to the New Riders brought us all so much joy over the years,” Michael Falzarano said early in the NRPS set, acknowledging the passing of John by reiterating a message on the band’s website. “We can all be thankful that his music and legacy will live on forever.”
Falzarano called Dawson’s music “timeless” – and to prove his point – there was a young male fan in the front row among the more seasoned adherents who was mouthing all the lyrics to NRPS’s catalogue throughout the show.
The two NRPS sets presented their past and present in arrangements that showcased the talents of each player and the tightness of the band as a whole. NRPS appeared to be having fun playing their flowing grooves as fans danced and swayed to old and new compositions.
Both sets started with songs from NRPS’s most recent record. The title track “Where I Come From” opened the evening. This mid-tempo tune meandered through exploratory jams with gelling guitars and raucous rhythms. Vocals throughout the night were handled by all members minus Cage with some collective harmonies adding to the mix.
The night’s festivities featured many of NRPS’s signature sounding songs with county flavored forays. Buddy’s shimmering steel ebbed and flowed while floating to the top of many of the mixes before melding back into the band’s musical muses. The many extensive jams were joyous jaunts and a cover of the Rolling Stones “Dead Flowers” was caustic yet chipper.
Michael stepped up to the mike to thank some supporters in the crowd – noting that local radio station WFUV had recently aired a block of NRPS live concerts. He also gave a shout to us here at KWEEVAK.COM (thank you, Michael) before adding that Sirius Radio was playing the next song in heavy rotation. The Falzarano sung “Carl Perkins Wears The Crown” was silky and smoky and included educational music history in the lyrics. Staying with the new theme, NRPS played the peppy “Henrietta” which Mike said should be on the next record scheduled for 2010.
After a break and a minor technical snag the New Riders of the Purple Sage returned with “Big Six” – a spirited country style song with sassy slide. The second set included plenty of classics such as “Blues Barrel” and “Panama Red” peppered with expansive instrumentation. New Riders of the Purple Sage’s unique brand of rambling rock is timeless, yet, the newer tracks revealed that NRPS continues to grow creatively and collectively as a group.
ASCAP Audio Portraits 8/02/09
Here the link to a great review and interview with David Nelson on deadnet.com
Iowa City Press Citizen 7/24/09
By Jim Musser
Initially a mystic-cowboy side-trip into country-rock by Grateful Dead members, the NRPS — fortified by a ready-made buying public of Deadheads — morphed into a free-standing, separate entity fronted by John Dawson and David Nelson and including pedal steel whiz Buddy Cage, bassist Dave Torbert and drummer Spencer Dryden (with assorted Dead guys slipping in on sessions).
Enshrouded in hipster mystique and smoldering cannabis, NRPS became extremely popular in the country-rock demimonde — so in-demand that their Columbia output (seven LPs from 1971 to 1975) quickly outpaced quality new material, and the lineup gradually dispersed as the decade (and success) spooled out.
Various lineups materialized under the NRPS banner for live shows over the years, but this official (reformed in 2005) edition — featuring the charismatic Nelson, the evermore-wizardly Cage and new kids Michael Falzarano, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski — has cooked up a rock-solid studio long-player that recaptures the Riders’ Western/hippie aura with a dozen tracks that include seven deluxe new co-writes by Nelson and the Dead’s enigmatic lyrical guru, Robert Hunter.
The swirling three-guitar attack (two electrics plus pedal steel) throws out plenty of heat and horsepower, and the jam-worthy rhythm section is strong and flexible.
Tough’n’tender, it’s quality lubrication for a roadside tavern dance floor.
Relix Magazine 7/22/09
If there was anyone who needed proof that the present-day lineup of the New Riders of the Purple Sage isn’t just an oldies band going through the motions rehashing fan faves, then here it is: Where I Come From finds the Riders fresh, fiery, and funkier than ever. Strong songs (eight new Robert Hunter/David Nelson tunes with Riders Michael Falzarano, Johnny Markowski, and Ronnie Penque contributing, as well) and soaring jams (led by Telemaster Nelson and pedal steel monster Buddy Cage) make this a much-welcome chapter in the evolution of the Dead family tree. Does it sound like the New Riders? Fo’ sho’. And that’s a good thing.
The DailyFreeman 7/17/09
By David Malachowski
Legendary group the New Riders Of The Purple Sage were country-rock pioneers, and also part of the early jam band scene by way of their association with the Jerry Garcia (who played pedal steel with them). Formed in the early 70’s as a place for Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart to play country songs that didn’t fit under the stylistic umbrella of the Grateful Dead, the band also featured singer John Dawson and guitarist/vocalist David Nelson. Eventually, bassist Dave Torbert, drummer Spencer Dryden and pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage came on board, separating themselves from the Dead, and gaining their own identity. They mined a hippie-country groove ala Poco, with songs about the old west and about recreational drugs (which were their forte). The riders developed a dedicated hardcore fanbase. They finally disbanded in 1982, but a new configuration has just released its first studio album in 20 years on Woodstock records. The new lineup includes longtime members David Nelson and Cage, as well as guitarist Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna, Professor Louie an the Crowmatix) bassist Ronnie Pengue and drummer Johnny Markowski (both from the band Stir Fried). From the forceful title track, “Where I Come From,” to the haunting “Barracuda Moon,” Nelson’s easy flowing delivery hits home. Cage plies his trademark distorted steel licks to perfection in the skyward-bound “Higher.” But he can go country-clean too, as he does in “Down the Middle” and in the lovely “Olivia Rose”. The New Riders dig a little deeper groove with “Blues Barrel,” while the eerie “Ghost Train Blues” is a highlight. The band has the impossible task of living up to a bigger-than-life legacy, but it does it with ease, and the legend lives on.
Vintage Guitar Magazine 7/14/09
The New Riders ride again! Sounds like a classic western. And this band is indeed pure legend. Launched to satisfy head Deadhead Jerry Garcia’s jones to play his pedal-steel, chief songwriter John Dawson’s lyrics lifted the band above being a mere side project to have a soul – and life – of its own. Signed to Columbia by Clive Davis, it toured for 11 years and released 12 albums along the way.
In 2005, the band reformed; you could call them the new New Riders of the Purple Sage. Early members David Nelson and pedal steel man Buddy Cage are back, along with Hot Tuna guitar slinger Michael Falzarano. With 12 new songs – seven co-written with famed Dead lyricist Robert Hunter – the band has released its first new studio album in 20 years. Kicking off with the title track, the band sounds better than ever. Their roots echo through the songs – Garcia and the Dead, the laidback Bay Area take on country music, and more. And yet the songs resonate with a new energy. The musicianship is impressive, the interplay tight, the solos inspired, the sound warm and bright. Most tracks were cut live in the studio, including “Barracuda Moon,” which was not only a first take, but the first time the band every played the song.
Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange 7/04/09
By Bob Gottlieb
The New Riders of The Purple Sage which originally started because of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart’s desire to play more country music, morphed considerably over the years on their epic journey. David Nelson who at times wrote for and played with the Dead is now doing a lot of writing, seven new songs, with Jerry’s old writing partner from the Dead days Robert Hunter, on this their first studio CD in twenty years. David Nelson is still playing guitar and singing and Buddy Cage has long been sitting in for Jerry on the Pedal Steel Guitar, with Michael Falzarano (guitar and vocals), Ronnie Penque (bass and vocals), and Johnny Markowski (drums and vocals) rounding out this latest edition of the band which has been touring for about 4 years. This edition of the band seems to have revitalized the old spirit that was prevalent in the beginning and the new songs carry on with that same energy and spirit that was there in the beginning. Whether it is the addition of these three new members, that happened in 2005, or the rekindling of the Hunter and Nelson songwriting partnership or a combination of the two, or just plain old alchemy, who cares, energy is back and this 12-song studio disc has captured the spirit and feel of the band in its heyday, and psychedelic country sound lives to gallop off toward the sunset and bring in more glorious evenings of music and fun. Kudos to Michael Falzarano for his work as the producer to get this live joy translated to the disc.
7nth Annual Strange Creek Campout Review
By Bruce Berman
Friday night also saw New Riders of the Purple Sage’s first set of the weekend. David Nelson, dressed in his requisite tie dye T-shirt and bandana, took the stage, along with Michael Falzarano, Buddy Cage, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski, and delivered a rocking yet twangy set to get everyone moving. Their set, featuring material from the new album, Where I Come From, kicked off with the title track, followed by “I Don’t Know You,” a song with a Tex-Mex feel. About halfway through the first set, NRPS broke out the 70’s classic “Panama Red,” which was appropriate because only a short while earlier, my fiancé and I had been discussing how great this song was with Nate Wilson. Next were “Peggy-O” and a blistering twelve minute version of “Barracuda Moon.” The guys wrapped up with Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Such a great set from NRPS left me craving more, and my appetite was satisfied during their second set on Saturday evening. An echo of the previous night, Saturday also saw a Dylan cover in “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” followed by a seventeen minute rendition of “Dirty Business.” Saturday night, they closed with the classic “Ripple,” and had me feeling good for the upcoming set from Max Creek
Read the full review here
Performing Songwriter 6/11/09
There’s no shortage of classic combos attempting to reclaim their branding, even lacking the presence of key personnel. The Who, The Dead, Queen…each has attempted to assert their pedigree with yet another curtain call. Consequently, we find The New Riders regrouped under the auspices of two original members, guitarist David Nelson and pedal steel player Buddy Cage—touting their first studio set in 20 years called Where I Come From.
Admittedly, there’s cause for suspicion; the groups moniker was appropriated by second-stringers after the original outfits demise, and subsequent live offerings have merely re-treaded familiar turf. Fortunately, the new album overcomes such obstacles, boosting credibility through contributions from lyricist Robert Hunter and the trademark sheen of Cage’s steel and Nelson’s melodious intonations. While the musical mix infuses more blues and Southern soul, the stand out songs “Big Six” and “Olivia Rose” suggests The New Riders may be back in the saddle to stay.
By Deborah Grabien
As a 40-year fan of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, I’m delighted to see a new release from them. Where I Come From (Woodstock Records) features seven collaborations between NRPS leader David Nelson and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Two of those, “Big Six” and “Rockin’ With Nona”, light up opposite ends of the CD, with driving freight train beats, and marvellous vocals from Nelson.
Some history: Early NRPS had two songwriters, founder John Dawson (aka Marmaduke), and the late Dave Torbert. NRPS tended toward short, crisp songs, largely because both Dawson and Torbert were bardic in their approach to writing lyrics. The songs were small stories, vignettes of lives and situations: “Henry” is a rollicking adventure with a pot importer in Mexico. “Portland Woman” is told by a touring musician falling for a girl he met backstage. “Contract” was a day in the life of a bounty hunter.
Today’s lineup – original Rider David Nelson, bassist Ronnie Penque, drummer Johnny Markowski, Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano, and legendary pedal steel player Buddy Cage – does a nice job walking the path between old-school NRPS and staking out newer ground. While the Nelson/Hunter collaborations comprise half the song total, other band members contributed their own songs to Where I Come From, and they’re all excellent. Penque’s “Olivia Rose” is a delightful link to the early days. Markowski’s “Higher” is an exemplar of present-day NRPS, and a monster song live; it blows the roof off the venue. Falzarano provides my own personal favourite, the absolutely kick-ass “Carl Perkins Wears The Crown”.
Where I Come From offers a taste of something for everyone, and the taste will linger nicely on your palate.
Honest Tune 6/15/09
By Bill Whiting
Taking a cue from the newly reorganized Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage return to shake things up a bit on their album, Where I Come From. David Nelson and Buddy Cage team up with Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski to gently sail the calm waters of the title track. “Me and the dog might share a bone,” Cage intones masterfully as Nelson and Michael Falzarano combine their dueling guitars to a crescendo, while the rest of NRPS keep the movements steady and relaxed. “Barracuda Moon” pops out as another winning entry from the organization that colored pop culture with “Panama Red.” It’s humming chorus belies a simmering underbelly of intensity that Nelson and Cage steer with unhurried self assurance. “Higher” is “Dirty Business” with a pumping pulse, and Falzarano gets the most out of the NRPS players, turning up the volume and mixing in blended harmonies for full effect. With much of the material written by Robert Hunter and produced by Falzarano, Where I Come From ushers in a new age of New Riders of the Purple Sage, and listeners will gladly take the journey with them over the next horizon.
Athens News 6/04/09
By Dennis Powell
New Riders of the Purple Sage, “Where I Come From” (Woodstock Records, June 2009). Just in time for summer road trips comes what to me is the best driving music in a long, long time. This record screams to be put in the CD player, the shades put on, and the open road embraced. The New Riders have been around for a long time, and “Where I Come From” demonstrates just how good the rockabilly jam band genre can be. Any one of the players would be a standout anywhere else, but together their sound is a reminder that hey, music is fun. Without deviating from a great ensemble sound, the guys find sweetness in “Olivia Rose,” and a happy tribute in “Carl Perkins Wears the Crown,” though there ought to be a warning with “Blues Barrel,” which might make you smile so much your face hurts — it says about all there is to say about rocking blues. If every new car came with a copy of “Where I Come From,” there might not be a crisis in the auto industry.
by Laura Turner Lynch
New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Where I Come From: At it’s inception in the 1970′s New Riders of the Purple Sage was an outlet for Jerry Garcia to play pedal steel. The band in various lineups released 12 albums over an eleven year period before drifting apart. In 2005, David Nelson (guitars/vocals) and Buddy Cage(pedal steel) recruited Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano (guitars, production and vocals) to revive The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Enlisting Ronnie Penque on bass and Johnny Markowski on drums the band toured and was well received. In the spring of 2009, New Riders of the Purple Sage released Where I Come From a twelve track CD that features seven songs co-written by Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The album captures the classic Rider’s vibe with a contemporary vision. The playing and production on the CD is peppy and precise with a range of melody and moods. The title track that opens the CD is edgy and engaging with slick slide work from Mr. Cage and twangy up-tempo jams. “Big Six” is a county flavored foray with solid guitar grooves and righteous rhythms. “Barracuda Moon” is pointed political prose with cutting chord structures, probing percussion and a murky melody. It is followed by “Higher” a hopeful tune that looks at things that makes the writer and perhaps the listener happy. Other highlights include their tuneful interpretation of the traditional “Minglewood Blues” and “Blues Barrel”, which has a funky feel within a blues format. The New Riders of the Purple Sage are back with a fine country rock album that melds their past and present persuasions.
New Riders on thebestofwebsite.com 5/30/09
By Barry Small
The New Riders of the Purple Sage have released its first studio CD in quite some time. The last to feature David Nelson and Buddy Cage was 1980′s Feelin’ Alright. David and Buddy resurrected the New Riders in 2005. The new album, Where I Come From, brings them full circle.
One of the ways I judge the strength of an album is when I finish my review if I’m anxious to put the CD on the shelf or do I keep it close to my CD player for a few more listens. The New Riders new album, Where I Come From, is from the latter camp. The music is fresh and full of life. The generous helping of 12 songs include seven penned by team of David Nelson and Grateful Dead lyrist Robert Hunter. Really nice stuff. Nearly every song is a keeper. The material spans the expected musical genres, several blues numbers, a few country tinged pieces, a Chuck Berry style original, some songs that rock, Most exciting, several tracks that stretch out like the title cut, Ghost Train Blues” and “Barracuda Moon.”
We highly recommend Where I Come From.
Forget the 40 years of history; forget the dues paid and the groundwork laid for what came to be known as the jamband scene; forget the family tree whose roots are tightly entwined with those of the Dead – just forget all that stuff and throw on a copy of the New Riders of The Purple Sage Where I Come From. Pretend it’s the debut album from a new band and listen. Just listen.
You know what? It’s good – damn good, as a matter of fact. No need to give anyone a free ride based on their laurels; the New Riders are making some of the best music of their career. This is no “oldies” act, kids – you want songs? You got ‘em. You want jams? You got those, too.
The first step in the New Riders’ renaissance of the last few years was breathing new life into old classics – letting songs like “Garden Of Eden” and “Portland Woman” off the leash in live settings and seeing where they took the band. With Where I Come From, the New Riders went into the studio with a collection of solid new songs and let the tape roll. What we hear was captured within the first couple passes at each tune with the jams blossoming on the spot.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be friends with The Bard. The Dead – God bless ‘em and more power to ‘em – may have the major-league tour this year and big-gun merchandising … but the New Riders have Robert Hunter. Eight of the 12 tracks on Where I Come From feature new Hunter lyrics with music from the New Riders’ David Nelson. Hunter and Nelson have been at this since the days of the Wildwood Boys (sitting in David’s parents’ living room with Jerry Garcia in the early ’60s trying to figure out the chord changes to old bluegrass songs) and the bond shines through. “Where I Come From” and “Big Six” are chock full of Hunter-style observations and lessons in life; the Bo Diddley snake dance of “Barracuda Moon” takes us to a world of outlaws and survivors; “Down The Middle” feels like a sweet soul cousin to the Dead’s “Black Muddy River”. And “Rockin’ With Nona” is one of those tunes that you think you’ve heard before: it may simply honk like a Chuck Berry classic but there are pictures there that could only come out of Robert Hunter’s head.
Fellow Riders and songwriters Michael Falzarano, Johnny Markowski, and Ronnie Penque ought to be proud; their contributions are woven between the Hunter/Nelson tunes and never drop the torch. Markowski’s ”Higher” promises to become a new sing-along classic in Riderworld, while Penque’s “Olivia Rose” is a sweetheart, pure and simple. Michael Falzarano wears many hats on the album: when he wasn’t busy chugging things along with his killer Tele rhythm work or sharing lead vocal chores with Nelson, he was the producer for the WICF sessions, capturing the band’s live sound and keeping it true to the NRPS vibe. Falzarano’s “Something In The Air Tonight” is a showcase for Ronnie Penque with his bass doing a funky, head-bopping camel walk that just grabs ahold of the groove and won’t let go.
And then there’s Buddy Cage.
The single most recognizable element that makes the New Riders’ sound what it is may be the interaction between David Nelson’s B-bender Telecaster and Buddy Cage’s steel guitar. On Where I Come From, Cage is in excellent form: he weaves with Nelson in classic NRPS fashion and proves his mastery of the pedal steel not only as a lead voice, but as a rhythm instrument, as well. And for those who still write off the pedal steel as being “too country,” let Cage’s solos on the title track or “Barracuda Moon” settle on you and see how you feel then. (Here’s a paper towel – that’s your brain dripping onto your shoulder.)
All in all, Where I Come From is a gift from a group of veteran musicians who have nothing to prove – and still have music to make. As mentioned earlier, the album would stand on its own if you knew nothing about the New Riders.
To know the grassroots vibe from all those years ago still exists, however, is truly cool. Play on, boys – play on.
By Tom Crenshaw
Here’s another cool interview with Buddy Cage about Where I Come From and other stuff. Check it out at www.rockom.net.
Written by Jud Conway
The New Riders of the Purple Sage formed in 1969 as a vehicle for Jerry Garcia to play pedal steel guitar and John Dawson to promote his original songs. Almost forty years later, notwithstanding a twenty-five year hiatus, the legendary “psychedelic cowboy band” returns with Where I Come From, its first studio offering in twenty years.
The incarnation of NRPS that was signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis disbanded around 1980. In 2005, guitarist Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna), bassist Ronnie Penque, and drummer Johnny Markowsi revived the band with original members David Nelson (guitar) and Buddy Cage (pedal steel). Well-received tours, along with a burgeoning co-writing relationship between David Nelson and famed Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, augmented by original contributions from new members Falzarano, Penque, and Markowski, laid the groundwork for Where I Come From. Recordings were conducted mostly live in the studio with as few takes as possible to preserve a spontaneous, organic feel. The band’s own Michael Falzarano helmed the producer’s chair for the proceedings.
Highlights from Where I Come From, an album rife with great songs, include the Hunter/Nelson tunes “Ghost Train Blues,” “Down the Middle,” and, in particular, “Barracuda Moon,” the recording of which, according to Falzarano, was captured the first time the band ever played through the track. Falzarano’s own “Carl Perkins Wears the Crown” ranks among his best work to date. A cover of “Minglewood Blues” breathes new life into the much-interpreted classic. Penque’s “Olivia Rose” and Markowski’s “Higher” fit nicely into the mix.
Where I Come From not only represents a vibrant new chapter in the discography of The New Riders of the Purple Sage, it offers listeners a “cosmic American” classic for the modern era….
Marin Independent Journal 5/06/09
It seems unbelievable, but the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a storied country-rock band that had seemingly been relegated to the annals of Marin rock history, has re-emerged with a new CD, the revered group’s first studio album in 20 years. Formed in Marin in 1969 to give the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia an outlet for his inchoate pedal steel playing, The New Riders released a dozen albums and sold four million records in their 11-plus-year career. Named after a Zane Grey western novel, the band fostered a dope-smoking cowboy image that was in tune with the California hippie zeitgeist of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Although most of their songs were written by frontman John “Marmaduke” Dawson, the New Riders are most closely associated with their lone hit single, “Panama Red,” written by non-member Peter Rowan. In 2005, Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano helped revived the New Riders, joining forces with two original members – singer-guitarist David Nelson and pedal-steel player Buddy Cage, who had replaced Garcia in 1971. With bassist Ronnie Penque and drummer Johnny Markowski, the new New Riders have been touring and writing songs, a dozen of which are on the new CD, “Where I Come From.” Seven of the songs, including the title track, were co-written by Nelson and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who also co-wrote songs on Bob Dylan’s new album. You can hear Garcia’s influence on the Nelson/Hunter tune “Big Six,” with its Dead-like arrangement and guitar lines. Nelson/Hunter resurrect the literate days of Hunter/Garcia on “Barracuda Moon,” “Down the Middle” and “Ghost Train Blues. Deadheads will rejoice at the sound of new music by one of the legendary offshoots of the Grateful Dead. And, on the strength of this unlikely rebirth, the New Riders may find some new, younger fans as well. Buy it!
Village Soup.com (The Herald Gazette, Maine) 5/03/09
Robert Hunter helps Dylan, New Riders
By Tom Von Malder
Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (Columbia) Dylan’s 46th album, again on his long-time label Columbia, is an album about love, drenched in the blues. It has a down home, casual feel. Two tracks with the immediate impact are the opening up-tempo love song, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” with lead guitar by Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers (Tom Petty’s band), and the harder blues of “Shake Shake Mama” with its salty-tongued women…“This Dream of You“ is the only song here with solo Dylan lyrics. For the rest he is aided in writing by the great Robert Hunter, long a lyricist for the Grateful Dead.…
New Riders of the Purple Sage: Where I Come From (Woodstock Records). “Panama Red” and Powerglide” still remain two of my favorite albums, and I did see the band perform in a small Chicago ballroom once (although I recall the prevalent smell of marijuana giving me a headache). This, amazingly, is the band’s first studio album in 20 years. NRPS originally was formed so the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia could play pedal steel guitar. John Dawson was the songwriter and the band was propelled by David Nelson’s guitar and Buddy Cage’s pedal steel. They signed with Columbia Records and spent 11 years touring and releasing 12 albums. But the group’s momentum dissipated and the band went into “mothballs.” In 2005, however, long-time Hot Tuna (a Jefferson Airplane related band) guitarist Michael Falzarano, with bassist Ronnie Penque and drummer Johnny Markowski, joined Nelson and Cage to revive the band. Along the way, 12 new songs were written, including seven co-written by Nelson and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The Nelson-Hunter tracks include some of the album’s strongest, including the opening title track, which is instantly likable and, at 7:40, contains lengthy instrumental portions in the center and end. They also co-authored the epic-length “Ghost Train Blues” (10:36), which has some very nice guitar work; the pedal steel-filled “Big Six” (“Lovin’ your brother/Then pickin’ him clean”); and the mid-tempo “Barracuda Moon,” with its twisty little melody and fine instrumental close that extends it to 7:56. There is a natural flow to the collaborations. By the way, Nelson and Hunter did play together with Garcia in a band in 1962. Falzarano wrote “Carl Perkins Wears the Crown,” which mentions other musical geniuses in each of their genre, then says Perkins was best when it came to rockabilly. Markowski wrote “Higher,” about working in a mountain garden, and Penque wrote the sweet “Olivia Rose,” another of the album’s highlights. The band also covers “Them Old Minglewood Blues. Falzarano, who produced the album, said, “We played live in the studio old school, five musicians in a room playing together, catching the energy as it happened. Most of the songs on the CD are first or second takes; no song was played more than three times. The Hunter/Nelson tune ‘Barracuda Moon’ is my favorite song on the CD. It’s not only the first take, but the first time we ever played it. For me, magic happened on that take.” The copy of the album I received came with a 66-minute, nine-track bonus disc. It includes radio edits of “Where I Came From,” “Barracuda Moon” and “Higher,” as well as six live tracks. Two of the live tracks are recordings of “Pour House Jelly” and “Let It Grow” with Professor Louie. The later is 12:33 long and very good. The remaining four live tracks revisit popular songs by the band, including an up-tempo “Louisiana Lady,” a mellow “Peggy O” with lots of pedal steel, a fast-paced cover of Buck Owens‘ “Truck Driving Man” and the mid-tempo, 18-minute long “Dirty Business.” Both “Louisiana Lady” and “Dirty Business” were written by Dawson back in the day. Grade: A
Music news and notes
Where I Come From / Woodstock Records
Music fans into the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead back in 1971 were probably equally turned on by the hippie country rock sounds of New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Featuring guitarists David Nelson (lead guitar) and Buddy Cage (steel guitar) backing up the songs of John Dawson, the New Riders were signed to Columbia by mogul Clive Davis and went on to record 12 albums while selling 4 million. A revived New Riders lineup—featuring Nelson and Cage along with a new rhythm section (Ronnie Penque bass and Johnny Markowski drums) and Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano—has yielded the band’s first new studio album in twenty years. Most of the tracks on Where I Come From were co-written by Nelson and his long time good buddy, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. An air of spontaneous psychedelia abounds on Where I Come From, with Nelson and Cage recreating that magical New Riders guitar sound that so many Deadheads tripped out to back in 1972.
The Aspen Times 5/02/09
By Stewart Oksenhorn
By all rights, New Riders of the Purple Sage should have come to a quick end when co-founder Jerry Garcia who formed the band (along with John Dawson) as an outlet for his latest interest, the pedal steel dropped out, in 1971. So the fact that NRPS is still in business beats considerable odds. “Where I Come From” finds the group still led by original singer-guitarist David Nelson on solid ground, making psychedelic country-rock distinguished mainly by the current pedal steel player, Buddy Cage, and lyrics by Garcia’s songwriting partner, Robert Hunter.
Robert Hunter 4/8/06
Just got back from the New Riders show at the Mystic in Petaluma. It sure took me back. Packed out house singing along lustily on songs they didn’t know they loved so much and suddenly discovered they did. Friends crawled out of the woodwork for this one. Betty Cantor was there and Annette Flowers; Michelle, who is to the Riders what Sue Swanson is to the Dead, first fan and lifetime helper. Dan and Patty Healy both looking great. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot spry, spare, ancient and smiling. Other faces half remembered but accounted for. An aura of Joy quickly established itself, similar to the first night of the Dead at Alpine on an intimate scale (a weird parallel I know, but there you go) – the resurrection feel, not repeatable on demand. The spirit bloweth where it listeth. Everyone realized pdq it was one of those nights destined to be remembered, what the music is all about, all it was ever about: love, magic and kick ass songs.
I spent the night on my feet way up front, soaking it all in. Finally went to the back of the house, dead on said feet, with Maureen and Kate to await the encore, which was, fittingly, the late Buck Owen’s “Truck Drivin Man” a song no Riders show ever omitted to play. The band’s manager spotted me seated in the rear of the Mystic, said the band wanted me to do the last number with them. I said I’d worn my voice out singing along with the crowd, which was true, not to mention not having been on stage since opening for the Dead & the ABB at the Gorge a century or two ago – but there was some part of “no” he didn’t understand, as a good manager shouldn’t, so without bothering to have my arm politely ripped out of the socket I went up and did it.
Long time since I’ve been on stage but I can always pull a Ripple out of the hat. How sweet it was to finally sing with the New Riders of the Purple Sage after nearly forty years. A deep emotional experience on the heels of one of the best NRPS shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. Old Nelson had tears in his eyes, Buddy sitting there like a great glowing Buddha of the pedal steel. Old home night in the 21st Century. The ghosts of Spencer Dryden, Dave Torbert, Skip Batten and Dale Franklin singing along on the chorus, JG present in the melody itself.
The missing Marmaduke seemed supernaturally imminent in the voices of Michael Falzarano of Hot Tuna, whose rhythm guitar is simple and absolutely superb, and of Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski who acquitted themselves with honors. Each of the three is capable of believably copping the Dawson style without which it wouldn’t be the Riders. So much so that it seemed like a chorus of Marmadukes on the harmony parts! I won’t even get into what a storm Nelson picked on his Telecaster, and of course, Buddy is Buddy. Nuff said. If this sounds like a rave review, so be it. Go get ‘em Riders!
Hitting the Note April/08
Few bands had as much impact on the country-rock movement of the early ’70s as the New Riders of the Purple Sage, America’s premier psychedelic cowboy band. Originally created as a Grateful Dead side project so that Jerry Garcia could get his pedal steel fix, the band took on a life of its own after Garcia left. They gave the world such great tunes as “Panama Red” and “Henry,” and lead singer David Nelson and pedal steel wizard Buddy Cage became cornerstones of the Americana and jam scenes.
Fast forward to 2006, and NRPS decides to get back together after years of inactivity. Founding member John “Marmaduke” Dawson is unable to tour because of health issues, but Cage and Nelson are still going strong. Former Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano and the rock-solid rhythm section of Ronnie Penque on bass and Johnny Markowski on drums (both formerly of Stir Fried) round out the band.
The group and their fans quickly realized that the old magic was still there, and when they played an intimate gig at Turkey Trot Lodge in upstate New York, they decided to film a live DVD, Wanted: Live at Turkey Trot, to capture the excitement of the reformed NRPS.
Capture it they did! From the red-hot version of “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy” that opens the disc to the epic 16-minute “Garden of Eden,” the band is Hittin’ the Note throughout. Buddy Cage gives a clinic on pedal steel, showing why he is a legend on the instrument. David Nelson is grizzled charisma personified, whether telling the classic story of “Panama Red” or ripping a solo on “Portland Woman” that is equal parts bluegrass, country and rock and roll.
KINK FM 101.9 Portland Oregon 12/12/08
As the New Riders Of The Purple Sage hit the stage. Jake and Linda were off to the front of the stage, swirling and twirling even before they started playing (Minlewood Blues). Mind you, I last saw NRPS in 1974. Waylon Jennings opened that show and joined them onstage for several tunes, though I have lost enough brain cells over the years to be unable to recall a single one of them. But that thirty four year gap is the longest in my concert going career.
Unless Led Zeppelin gets together again and I lottery myself into a ticket, it will be the longest gap for a while. Sure, lots of players from ’74 aren’t around any more, Waylon included. The only old timers in the band are guitarist David Nelson and pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage. Michael Falzarano comes from Hot Tuna and Johnny Markowski and Ronnie Penque come from the Jerry Garcia Band, with Penque having spent time in a Dead ‘tribute’ band before joining the current line up.
Nelson led the way from center stage, his trademark two inch wide headband firmly in place. The band’s traditionally tight harmonies shone on cuts like the thematic I Don’t Know You and Higher. They jammed their way through a few songs, and then asked Barry Sless to join them. It was at that point, four songs in to the set, that all hell broke loose, musically. Again, channeling Captain Tripps, Sless noodled with the best of them throughout Henry, then Ghost Train Blues. He sounded as though he had been playing with these guys since they were the soundtrack for the monthly reading of the Continuing Adventures Of The Furry Freak Brothers (Remember kids, Keed Spills!)
Throughout the night, Nelson referred to the set list on a music stand slightly to his left. But, just as often, he would turn to Markowski, Penque and Falzarano and audible a change. I don’t think there was a song that stopped short of eight to ten minutes all night, they jammed that hard. Cage seemed happy to let Barry Sless take the lead when he was on stage and Sless stretched each song to the limit. I think the audibilizing was done mainly to take advantage of Sless’ presence and musicianship.
A great example was Where I Come From. What started as a country rock blue ballad became a twenty minute exercise in musicality. With the rhythm section chug-a-luggin along, Nelson, Cage and Sless took turns shredding fingertips and changing tempos. Just when you thought it was going to crash into the power chord ending, Mike Falzarano chimes in with the Bo Didley-esque rhythm guitar riff with his amp turned to eleven and it starts all over again.
At some point, while the bands collective harmonies pleaded with Peggy-O to marry them, a waifish fan of no more than twenty approached the stage. All tie dye and dreds, she squeezed between the still twirling Jake and Linda and tried to get Nelson’s attention. When she finally caught his eye, she reached into her frock and presented him with a giant bud in a small tupperware container. He thanked her for the “Party Favor” before the next song, while Cage professed the benefits living where decriminalization was born, back around the time I last saw these guys.
Appropriately, the band finished the night with the encore of Portland Woman, with most of the audience singing along for the chorus. More applause didn’t bring them back, it was over. No Panama Red, no Dead Flowers, but that’s okay by me. I’ll remember Blues Barrel and Louisiana Lady for weeks to come. And I left with Portland Woman bouncing around my head. But not before I said goodnight to Jake and Linda. They were putting their shoes back on and smiling like they knew something you don’t know. Again, they expressed their gratitude for being able to dance the night away in grand, tie dyed style
Hambone Sparklewell Sept/08
Garcia and David Nelson dosed together for the first time. And Robert Hunter talked them through it, after consulting the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and pronounced everything alright. Then the Wildwood Boys were bent for good, and look what’s come of it.
So, a storied crooked line led to last night’s NRPS show here in gusty Jacksonville Beach at the saloon called the Freebird.
It all makes more sense to consider that Nelson was in it, up to his eyeballs, from the beginning, that he’s seen things,
that he and Cage rode the Festival Express with Garcia and Janis and Pig, and NRPS toured with the Grapeful ones in the cowboy years-so last night, a slow Wednesday night across the street from the foamy Atlantic, when Nelson and Cage took the stage, with Michael Falzarano on guitar (ears still ringing, no doubt, from years with Jorma) and Ronnie Penque on bass and Johnny Markowski on drums, both of which drive the old men relentlessly, and with proprietary pride one could be forgiven for seeing Nelson and Cage as a weary truckstop angels, who have a personal relationship with the keys of G and D, and the rest, who have infused the Bakersfield Hymnal with electrical Powerglide. Nelson’s halo is still encircled by a familiar bandanna, his trusty Telecaster (with a B-string bender and a middle Strat pickup) plugged into a tiny wicker and wood Mesa Boogie combo, and Cage is slumped over his pedal steel holding his mouth funny like a slide player must, holding his breath as the bar slides across that 400 pounds of highly amplified string with a twinkle in his eye-and Nelson told us about the new songs they would play, how Robert Hunter had called him and said “It’s your turn now, I’m going to send you some words.”So Whatcha Gonna Do, I Don’t Know You, Panama Red, Lonesome LA Cowboy, One Too Many Stories, Henry, Glendale Train all were delivered with authority, with spanking clarity and the inimitable CLANG of Fender guitars, and Dawson would toast Penque’s handling of his tunes, and Cage iced that Workingman’s cake with slippery steel dog whistle sounds. But the Hunter songs were so new Nelson put on his glasses to read them from a music stand, and the words rang true in the instantly familiar Hunter style, and the oldsters in the room drew a bit closer to be warmed by the new fire. We can only hope that these songs have the chance to get played in, and grow old and familiar and dog-eared and graceful as this band.
By Eric Alterman
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were a dream in their day. I saw them with 50,000 people in August 1974 in Central Park and the women around me all took off their shirts, making it a rather memorable show for this 14-year-old. Now, I see, they’ve revived and still feature David Nelson, pedal steel player Buddy Cage, plus ex-Hot Tuna guitarist/singer Michael Falzarano. There’s a new double live album with some pretty fine playing on it recorded by Bob and Betty (of Workingman’s Dead fame) last New Year’s Eve 2006…..
The Albany Times Union
The New Riders of the Purple Sage are in the saddle again.
By MICHAEL LISI,
The band, which got its start in 1969 as a vehicle for Jerry Garcia to practice his pedal steel guitar, a long strange trip that brought the band to the Palace Theatre for several shows in the early 1970s. But the Riders are back. They re-formed last year with original band guitarist/vocalist David Nelson and longtime group pedal steel player Buddy Cage in the fold.
Sure, the Riders are rooted in the past. But they are much more than mere musical ghosts and they proved it in a triumphant return to The Egg on Thursday night. The Riders, who played to a packed house at The Egg last year, played an inspired two-hour show that had the 400 or so fans packed into the intimate Lewis A. Swyer Theatre singing along and cheering at the first strains of most of the songs.
The fans, the majority of whom were baby boomers in their 50s and 60s, were plenty familiar with almost every song the band played. They couldn’t get enough of Cage’s sometimes ethereal pedal steel guitar or Nelson’s nasal voice and credible lead guitar work……
Augmented by former Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano, and a solid rhythm section, the New Riders rode tall, turning in vintage, classic, suitably sloppy versions of “I Don’t Know You,” “Louisiana Lady” and the swampy 15-minute jam that was “Dirty Business.” The band’s rendition of “15 Days Under The Hood” was intense and immediate, Cage’s cutting pedal steel licks mixing comfortably with Nelson’s jangly, country-fused guitar leads. Nelson’s voice had certain urgency to it, unlike his delivery in most of the band’s upbeat country-folk songs. There’s still plenty of spirit left in the New Riders, and especially in Cage’s pedal steel playing. Wearing a tie-dye shirt and moccasins, Cage effortlessly laced each song with his pedal steel licks, his big sound perfection in songs such as “Diamond Joe,” “Sutter’s Mill” and the beloved “Henry,” which had a few fans dancing in and out of their seats……
All in all, the New Riders of the Purple Sage were enjoyable on Thursday night. This band is more than just a shadow of its former self; they continue to be the real deal.
The Dallas Morning News / January 26, 2007
New Riders of the Purple Sage high in the saddle at Granada
By Matt Weitz
The intersection of rock ‘n’ roll and country has gone through many permutations, more than a few of them centered on Texas. After all, there was Willie, then Killbilly, and current hybrids like Eleven Hundred Springs. With only about 10,000 artists in between.
But before there was a Texas progressive country scene, or alt country, or Americana, there was the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the California group that was born in the shadow of the Grateful Dead.
They went on to middling success, then petered out, but returned Thursday night at the Granada Theater to play a triumphant two-set show that was long on vibe and virtuosity.
Helmed by founding member David Nelson and longtime contributor Buddy Cage, the group – unlike many in a similar situation – didn’t suffer from the addition of newer supporting members.
The band played a long, two-set show for slightly over 200 fans, starting out with “I Don’t Know You” and “Watcha Gonna Do,” from their self-titled 1971 debut.
Although it could have easily been an oldies show, the music was fresh and immediate. Mr. Cage is one of the most impressive pedal-steel players active these days, and all the other members of the band shared singing duties, capturing close harmonies and a certain innocent, adenoidal sound reminiscent of the Byrds and other California bands from the ’60s.
Mr. Nelson was an old coffeehouse chum of Mr. Garcia’s, an association underlined by a version of the grease monkey’s lament “Fifteen Days Under the Hood” that sounded very much like “Truckin’,” followed by the old folkie chestnut “Peggy O,” a Dead standard.
But the band never sounded derivative or stale, even when showing its roots. Mr. Nelson’s guitar leads were agile and sharp, and Mr. Cage not only delivered the swooping lyricism associated with his instrument, but a lot of unusual atmospherics as well.
In between new songs – which, entirely contrary to the cliché, were as good as the faves – the group did beloved numbers like the entrepreneurial “Henry” and the surprisingly vulnerable groupie song “Portland Woman.”
They also essayed good covers, including vintage pop (“Take a Letter, Maria”), the obligatory Dylan (“Absolutely Sweet Marie”) and the Rolling Stones (an epic “Let It Bleed”).
An encore version of the Hunter/Garcia classic “Ripple” only underscored similarities that were present throughout the entire show. The glory of the evening was that despite their obvious footing in the past, the New Riders were not just an echo or reflection of their thing, but still a credible version of that thing itself.
The Roanoke Times / Feb. 14 / 08
By Howard Bullen
What a great show! Two full sets – age is catching up with me, I wrote down the set lists and now find that between the Purple Haze beer, memory, and my handwriting, its a little rough making it out! Nevertheless, they played about 20 songs in all, many of the standards the crowd expected, but what impressed me the most was the musicianship of the band! Very tight and could extend and jam with the best (David is pushing “70″ and it sure doesn’t show – Buddy hasn’t lost anything either!) A dready fella AKA ScareKrow opened for them on acoustic guitar, and played some covers and originals including one he wrote with Robert Hunter, “Billboard Dreams” – very nice – he is one to watch and I hope he comes back to Roanoke with the NRPS or solo…. -
New Riders Back in the Saddle @ Skippers
Written by Randi Whitehead
The New Riders of the Purple Sage, the band that began in 1969 and later toured opening for many Grateful Dead shows, spread their psychedelic cowboy music to several hundred fans at the “Skipperdome” in Tampa, Florida on June 29, 2006.
Comprised of original members, David Nelson (guitar and vocals) and Buddy Cage (pedal steel), and adding to their psychedelic sound with Michael Falzarano (guitar and vocals), Johnny Markowski (drums and vocals) and Ronnie Penque (bass and vocals). Markowski and Penque are not newcomers to the band’s vibe as they played with Cage in Stir Fried a couple of years ago. Fans crowded the venue, many to recreate their past memories of the group, and it’s legendary history, based on folk, but interpreted into rock & roll and country with the aura of the hippie era.
Back on the road again, touring this summer from the south to the northeast, including several festival stops, including Gathering of the Vibes in New York and then back to north Florida again this fall for Magnolia Fest, the band is already selling out at some venues. David welcomed the fans to the wild venue, adding, “we’re happy to be here, it’s a little bizarre in a way, but fun.” After encouraging both taping and dancing, Peter Rowan’s “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy” led to the original ”Rainbow”, and then Dave Torbert’s “Contract” (written by the original bass player for the band) The psychedelic cowboys kicked up the vibe even more on Skipper’s outdoor range as they played “I Don’t Know You”, as fans sang along with Michael “you’ve been lately on my mind”, reminiscing moments from past concerts from as many as thirty years ago. Cooling it down a bit, with “Peggy-O”, a tune derived from the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Lass of Fyvie”, after which fans yelled “awesome!” and Buddy stated “that’s a cool song, isn’t it”, the cowboy’s rode even harder with Ronnie singing “Whatcha Gonna Do”. This tune led to other New Rider originals “Dirty Business” and “Whiskey”, before all of us Florida ladies danced our hearts out to “Louisiana Lady”.
The virtual presence of John Dawson, aka Marmaduke, the original guitarist and vocalist for the band, who wrote a majority of their original tunes, was evident in the mode of the night (although he is retired in the hills of Mexico) given he blessed the band to journey with his songs on the road again to fans old and new. With one of old fans yelling out “these guys are the real deal”, they played “15 Days Under The Hood”, after which David thanked everybody, and said, that was “rocking, you are great”,
After a short break, set two began with Buddy mentioning the Sandhill Cranes they saw in Zephyrhills that morning, stating “what a pretty, pretty thing”, before the apropos “Last Lonely Eagle”, after which the bluegrass kicked in on “Henry”. The crowd was truly “going down the mountain road” with the New Riders, and danced faster and faster
After conferring over the setlist for a few minutes, the rocking cowboys played “Garden of Eden”, which rocked out even their own roadies at the side of the stage. After another meeting of the musical minds over the setlist, David mentioned that a fan had requested him to sing backwards. With a time curfew looming, he stated there wasn’t really time, but then launched into the jumbled backward words of “Panama Red”, before giving away his secret that it wasn’t his natural ability (he tape recorded the tune and then listened and practiced it repeatedly), prompting Michael to caution the audience not to try this at home stating “you might hurtyourself”. The right aways of the song ensued, creating a sing-a-long with almost the entire crowd, with Michael inciting the audience to scream the chorus louder and louder.
Reminding everyone to vote for them on jambands.com, and reminding the “young” fans to check out their myspace.com site, Johnny sang the vocals of “Groupie” before Michael jokingly announced the next tune as an English folk song. A riveting rendition of the Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed” ended the show, with the audience singing along “we all need someone we can dream on…
The crowd cheered and yelled, bringing the New Riders back for just one more, ending the evening with the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”, to which another sing-a-long ensued. As the tattooed words on Buddy’s neck state (loosely translated – lunatic or crazy for music) a bit crazed we were, after such a smoking show at the smokehouse.
By Rich and Laura Lynch
The New Riders of the Purple Sage emerged in the early 1970′s an offshoot and side project of the Grateful Dead. Now, with the absence of The Dead and Phish on the annual touring circuit, NRPS stand poised to emerge among the leaders of the jam band pack. Case in point – just one week into their renaissance tour found them headlining the three-day Harvest Festival in Bainbridge, New York – an event that included many of the east coasts finest improvisational rock outfits.
Now, some history… In 1969, writer John Dawson was looking for an opportunity to showcase his songs and Jerry Garcia was searching for an outlet to practice playing his new pedal steel guitar. These two, along with a group of other talented musicians including some members of the Grateful Dead formed The New Riders of the Purple Sage. The band went through a number of incarnations early on including the replacement of Garcia with steel player Buddy Cage. The NRPS built a strong following, especially in The Dead community, for their unique blend of country harmonies melded with pulsing rock rhythms.
Mexicali Blues was sold out Thursday, October 6, 2005 and there were 200 more people outside wanting to get in, inside the crowd grew electric in anticipation of the long-awaited return of The New Riders of the Purple Sage. It’s been more than twenty years since The Rider’s rode together and veteran fans were anxious to see what the night would hold. The current line-up is comprised of long-time core members David Nelson (guitar and vocals) and Buddy Cage (pedal steel), with Michael Falzarano of Hot Tuna fame (guitar and vocals ), and Stir Fried’s Johnny Markowski (drums and vocals) and Ronnie Penque from The Neon Gods(bass and vocals) rounding out the unit.
The Mexicali gig was one of the first dates on the band’s tour, yet they sounded liked a tight, seasoned band who has been playing together for years. Buddy Cage was the first to appear on stage, taking a seat behind the pedal steel to tune and adjust his instrument. A few cautious fans approached him for autographs but he waived them off to focus on the music. The rest of NRPS walked on stage around 9:20 p.m. to thunderous applause.
‘Henry’ was the opening song of the animated first set. It is a rocking blue grass number featuring dueling guitars and a subtle rhythm. Bassist Ronnie Penque sang the lead and vocally he sounds a little like Jerry Garcia. The slide parts were magical. ‘Lonesome L.A. Cowboy’ is a county flavored rocker with rich guitar parts and tempos. David sang the lead as Buddy delicately handled the steel – gently using the foot pedals to craft a silky, twangy sound
Michael Falzarano sang the colorful ‘Rainbow’ harmonizing with David as the enchanting instrumentation ebbed and flowed into Cage’s steel solo. Michael asked the crowd if anybody drinks ‘Whiskey’ as the drummer, Johnny Markowski tapped out the opening beats to the tune. The rest of NRPS kicked it up as Ronnie sang lead. Afterwards, Buddy mentioned that he hosts a show on Sirius Satellite Radio that features Dead/jam type music and he encouraged folks to tune in.
Johnny Markowski is an impressive player behind the kit. He is powerful yet touches the skins softly to avoid overpowering the textured guitars and steel. ‘Whiskey’ included an extended jam with a funky slide part and mesmerizing rhythms. The audience really enjoyed this classic swaying and getting completely caught up into the groove.
David introduced ‘Contract’ as a song about a bounty hunter which is not a savory topic but their interpretation was flavorful and sizzled. It started off with the slide as the snappy beat implying movement picked up the pace while Nelson sang the story. ‘Truck Driving Man’ was an up-tempo bluegrass song featuring rich textures and tones. Falzarano handled the vocals as Buddy’s slide snaked from soft to strong over beautiful guitar leads and lush rhythms. Roused by Michael – the crowd sang along capably for a number of choruses.
‘Dirty Business’ had a swagger melding with slick slide that was hypnotic as they moved into ‘Runnin’ Back To You’ – a lively honky-tonk tune. The set closed with the spirited ‘Take A Letter Maria’ that had a Dead flavor thanks in part to Ronnie’s vocals.
The first set was very well received and after a break the second set built on the momentum with more classics including ‘Panama Red’. The NRPS are poised to ride to the helm as a premier jam band. The quintet is filled with skillful veteran players who are still passionate about the music. They bring a freshness to songs that are decades old. Besides first class musicianship, NRPS has diversity with three lead vocalists who all have a distinctive style and sound. The New Riders of the Purple Sage are back with a vengeance!
By Michael Joyce
Three days after arthroscopic knee surgery and guess what? I don’t need no doctor, cuz I had some tickets for The New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS). The Lycian Centre in Sugar Loaf, New York is a great hall. It seats 677 folks, has a high ceiling and 3 columns of seats. Let’s just say I was quite jazzed when I first walked, or hobbled, in to the sold out room.
8:15 and the lights go dim and out walk the NRPS. The band of today consists of David Nelson, Buddy Cage, Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna), Ronnie Penque (Neon Gods) and Johnny Markowski (Stir Fried). John Dawson has retired to the hills of Mexico and has given the guys his blessing. The first song is a NRPS favorite of mine [as are a lot of them]; a Rolling Stones cover of “Dead Flowers” and the band is cranking it out just fine in a wonderful country rock manner that only the NRPS can fancy.
I am quite pleased with the music let me tell ya. David Nelson is playing a Fender b-bender Telecaster, a b-bender being a device which as you push down on the guitar the b string bends up in it’s tuning so it gets a real nice twang to it. Michael Falzarano is also playing a Fender Telecaster but with a sunburst and a Seymore Duncan pick up at the bridge of the guitar. Ronnie Penque is playing bass on a 1957 Fender Precision bass; a real nice guitar there, a sweet thumper for sure. Buddy is playing a Fessender pedal steel guitar that has two 10 string pedal steel guitars placed together and countless knee and foot pedals. Everyone in this band sings and they all trade places as lead singer, which really impressed when drummer Johnny Markowski sang too. The whole band has talent out the wazoo and they sure showed it that night.
During the break I was able to get backstage and talk a little bit with some of the band. I had a great talk with Buddy about how tube amps are superb, “Are there any other kind of amps?” he said. ‘Yes but they aren’t my cup of tea,’ I replied. I had mentioned a few mutual friends and we had a few laughs, Uncle Willie and Ned Moran were the topic for a bit; I asked him about new music and he said “live music is mainly what people want. So we’re selling shows playing everything.”
Captain Toast, the tour manager and main man announced stage in 5 minutes so I had to exit stage left to hobble to my seat.
The second set started with “Dirty Business” and man did Buddy get that nasty distortion slide sound. He has a hard-trucker cabinet from the ol’ Grateful Dead years, fired up by an old Fender Twin Reverb amp with lots of vintage effect pedals to tweak the color of his sound, and some of the songs had great lengthy spacey jams. David was playing his guitar through a 100 watt Mesa Boogie Mark 1 amp, they are really beautiful amps with wooden body and a wicker grill covering the speaker. Michael was jamming through a 50 watt Carvin Nomad, also a gorgeous amp with a tweed covering. As I was talking the pictures I wanted so much to dance around so I just shuffled best I could to the music that moved me. Before I knew it they walked off stage. But after a few minutes the band, adorned with surrealistic clothing they found backstage, returned and gave us the encore of Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35/”
It was a great show and I will remember it well. I also hope the audience remembers what David and Buddy had mentioned onstage; support the politicians who will support the earth like Patrick Leahy and John Hall.
Jambands.com Station 2, Norfolk, VA
Now that hair rock has killed L.A. for good (the signs were all there; Motley Crue’s reunion tour merely confirms it) and CMT has killed Nashville, there aren’t a whole lot of places left to go for the heart-on-sleeve new traditionalist California country that came out of the Golden State in the late 60s and early 70s. The Byrds were the popular pinnacle, Graham Parsons was the martyr, and The Eagles seem to have been the last gasp—and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man. So for all intents and purposes, the jingle-jangle of California country died sometime around 1980, when Buddy Cage returned to record one last album with the New Riders of the Purple Sage. After “Feelin’ Alright,” John Dawson carried the torch through the 90s, but things were never quite the same once Poison broke up.
Ironically, it was newer blood that pumped David Nelson and Buddy Cage to reunite for a new New Riders tour this winter. Drummer Johnny Markowski and bassist Ronnie Penque apparently just hounded Nelson until he couldn’t say no, and with sometime Hot Tuna guitarist Michael Falzarano rounding out the line-up in place of the homebound Dawson, NRPS was ready to ride again. Call it a reunion tour. Call it a comeback. Just don’t call it a farewell tour. There’s no reason for the New Riders of the Purple Sage to rehang their saddles anytime soon.
While there’s still some rust around the edges, as de facto frontman Nelson was insistent upon pointing out, the New Riders are back in the saddle, and despite the age on their faces, they’re playing with all the chiming youth of their California birth. Cage’s pedal steel whistled and moaned through the apropos opener “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy,” and Penque, Nelson and Falzarano’s sweet harmonies resonated through “Rainbow.” Apparently having learned a few techno-tricks from his upstart bandmates, Nelson admitted to having had to Google the lyrics for the shuffling 50s blues rock of “Fifteen Days,” but the country rocker gave a lesson all these “new country” bands being spat off the Nashville assembly line should heed: there is a way to put a little rock into your country without losing the soul of either.
“Dirty Business” added a little grit to the sock-hop rock, and Cage sent sparks off into the few empty corners. Nelson added some honkytonk guitar before Cage returned like a lion then went out like a lamb, leaving wide-open spaces for his bandmates’ harmonies to fill. Part-time cohort Peter Rowan’s “Panama Red” rocked a little harder than expected, and “Louisiana Lady” sang along with the train’s whistle. While the entire show carried an undeniable nostalgia, the band’s youth gave it a life beyond old photos and artifacts buried deep in the closet. The bittersweet freedom of the Stone’s “Dead Flowers” brought the set to a sunnily cynical end, admitting the defeat of age, but refusing to accept the chains of maturity.
The Byrdsian harmonies and chiming chords of “I Don’t Know You” blew a cool ocean wind into the second set, as Cage played the “Last Lonely Eagle,” riding the gusts and gaps in the breezy melody before Falzarano ripped through the country rock of “Goin’ Down to Suttersville.” “Garden of Eden” blasted some psychedelia into the room as the band finally spread its wings on the skip-foot arena rock of “Groupie” and the raw, rusted Crazy Horse stomp of “Death and Destruction.” Much of the older crowd had called it a night after the first set, but those that were left joined in the singalong of “Rollin’ Down the Highway,” and the young’uns soon dropped their skeptical façade and joined right in.
The gap between the world that birthed the New Riders and the world in which they now ride again stretches over almost two generations, but the band’s galloping rock and soaring country bridges it, even if the two sides are still worlds apart. Station 2’s marble dance floor shook beneath the band’s closing honkytonk boogie and was only saved by the somber encore tribute of “Ripple.” While the hats-off to Garcia may not have been the evening’s finest moment, it goes a long way towards resolving the New Riders’ dual existence in the past and the future. The New Riders’ west coast country hasn’t aged quite as well as Garcia’s music, but their old lungs are breathing new life into a sound that by all accounts should live on beyond the vinyl collections gathering dust in America’s collective attic. So here’s to a few more rides and the hope that a new generation will take up the reins before it’s all over.
New Riders of the Purple Sage @ Canal Room
By Steve Bloom
Due to their Grateful Dead connections, the New Riders of the Purple Sage need no introduction. Even if they haven’t toured consistently in over a decade, NRPS conjure good times in the ’70s when they opened for the Dead, with Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel guitar.
Four years ago I organized a full-scale reuinion of the New Riders at BB King’s in New York as part of the High Times Doobie Awards. We were able to coax John “Marmaduke” Dawson, who wrote and sang most of the band’s songs, out of his bunker in San Miguel Allende, Mexico to join David Nelson, Buddy Cage and Nelson’s band (bass and drums). Original drummer Spencer Dryden and “Panama Red” songwriter Peter Rowan were last-minute additions to the reunion. NRPS received a Lifetime Achievement Award and performed a five-song set that included “Glendale Train,” “Panama Red,” “LA Cowboy” and “Henry” (“going’ down the mountain/fast, fast, fast”).
The version of The New Riders who performed Thursday night did not include Marmaduke. But Nelson, Cage and the replacement players – Michael Falzarano (guitar/vocals), Ronnie Penque (bass/vovals) and Johnny Markowski (drums) – easily sufficed. Nelson, who “picked” with Garcia in the Wildwood Boys, is a legendary guitarist and certainly the best known, along with Garcia, from that very special scene.
NRPS were pioneers of country-rock, now known as alternative-country, or alt-country. Between the Dead, Poco. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Byrds, the Band, Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline), CSNY, Flying Burrito Brothers, the Stones (Exile on Main Street), even Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection), the New Riders fit right in, mostly because of their pedal-steel style and C&W harmonies.
The three-and-a-half hour Canal Room show was laden with favorites and lengthy jams. Split into two sets, the New Riders peaked early with “I Don’t Know You,” “Whatcha Gonna Do,” “Henry,” “LA Cowboy” (“smokin’ dope, snortin’ coke”) and “Louisiana Lady.” The second set featured Peter Rowan’s stoner classic “Panama Red” (“he’ll steal your woman/and he’ll rob your head”), “Last Lonely Eagle” (dedicated to Dead roadie Ramrod, who died on Wednesday) and a run of covers (“Willie and the Hand Jive,” “Take a Letter, Maria,” “Let it Bleed” and the Dead’s “Ripple”).
NRPS road manager Mark Topazio says Marmaduke is not in proper physical condition to endure a rigorous schedule but has giving the band his blessing. The band is currently in the midst of a nine-date tour: their next shows are Saturday in Fairfield, CT at FTC Stage One and Sunday in Albany, NY at The Egg.