New Riders of the Purple Sage (from the album NRPS)
Jerry Gracia steered the psychedelic ship as Captain Trips, driving the wheel of the Grateful Dead as the band made their way out of the San Francisco music scene and into history. Never complacent with his playing, Jerry Gracia juggled multiple projects, each with its own sound as he offered outtings with a string band (Old and in the Way), Blues (with Merle Saunders), and unique takes on cover tunes (Jerry Garcia Band). His interest in playing pedal-steel guitar led Jerry Garcia to join forces with John ‘Marmaduke’ Dawson and his vision of psychedelic Country. The pair added another longtime Bay Area music scene compatriot with David Nelson on guitar, performing as New Riders of the Purple Sage. Former Jefferson Airplane drummer, Spencer Dryden, was the drummer for the group’s self-titled debut, the only album featuring Jerry Garcia, who was replaced by Buddy Cage in the band.
New Riders of the Purple Sage were in the right musical spot for the late 1960’s move towards Country Rock that came in with The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Dillards, and other SoCal Country Rock’n’Roll bands. The NRPS debut featured all tracks written by lead vocalist, John Dawson. Psychedelics stretched the possibilities of the Country Rock’n’Roll that New Riders of the Purple Sage wore like a second skin. Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel is prominent, skipping with a playful romp in “Whatcha Gonna Do”, catching air like the spreading wings of “Last Lonely Eagle” as his playing freckles the air around honky tonk piano rambles, and sighs like the breaks coming to a tour-stop for “Portland Woman”. The wry sense of humor in the words of John Dawson are the language of hippie-era average man, as NRPS introduces an old-school drug-runner as it watches “Henry” hurdle through the mountains of Mexico, picks up the pace on a rapidfire string band push for “Glendale Train”, and dreams a cowboy tale on the waves of sound rising like heat off a desert floor in “Dirty Business”.
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