Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Riders of the Purple Sage ride again

From the Post & Courier:

New Riders of the Purple Sage ride again
Special to The Post and Courier

Tonight, the newly reunited New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS) - one of country-rock's first and finest ensembles - rambles into The Pour House on what could be its last go-round.
Because NRPS has remained more or less dormant since the late 1970s, its popular legacy has dwindled to a footnote, and its members have been mortally pigeonholed as "the hippies that sang 'Panama Red' " or "the guys that jammed with The Grateful Dead."

Some would argue, however, that the band's musical footprint deserves more than a mere footnote.

Formed in California's Marin County in 1970 by John "Marmaduke" Dawson (guitar/vocals), David Nelson (lead guitar) and Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia (pedal steel guitar), Phil Lesh (bass) and Mickey Hart (drums), NRPS successfully fused the freewheeling spirit of the psychedelic movement with the simple virtues of traditional country music.

During the early 1970s country-rock explosion that popularized similar acts such as The Eagles, The Band and Gram Parson's Flying Burrito Brothers, NRPS thrived as an accessible, countrified sidecar to The Grateful Dead, often touring with and opening for that parent group. In fact, much of the crossover success of The Grateful Dead's 1970 country-rock masterpiece, "American Beauty," can be attributed to the skillful playing of NRPS members on the project.
Over time, NRPS grew into its own sovereign entity, with bassist Dave Torbert, drummer Spencer Dryden and pedal steel guitar player Buddy Cage replacing The Grateful Dead's Lesh, Hart and Garcia, respectively.

The pinnacle of the group's popularity came in 1974 with the oddball hit "Panama Red," and its accompanying concept album, "The Adventures of Panama Red" - both of which chronicle the humorous exploits of an amorous, pot-smuggling cowboy named Panama Red.

Despite a lyrical fixation on silly, fantastic and archaic themes, New Riders of the Purple Sage ultimately forged a musical identity far more serious than the band members' unruly hairstyles would suggest.

The group's warm, home-cooked sound, marked by laid-back vocal harmonies, by Cage's mercurial pedal steel melodies, by Nelson's silky guitar leads and by Dawson's genre-melding songwriting, helped lay the sonic framework for modern-day artists such as Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, et al.

Last fall, reunited by the January 2005 passing of drummer Spencer Dryden, NRPS embarked on its first tour in more than a decade. The current lineup consists of original members Nelson and Cage, augmented by session players Michael Falzarono, John Markowski and Ron Penque.
Founding member John Dawson - who conceptualized the group's innovative psychedelic-country style, allegedly while under the influence of mescaline in 1969 - has been unable to join the band on tour due to failing health, but gives this most recent incarnation of NRPS his ringing endorsement.

If you go
Who: New Riders of the Purple Sage, w/ Iridescent Sol
When: Tonight, 8
Where: The Pour House, 1977 Maybank Highway
Cost: $15
Tickets: At the door, or go to
Info: (843) 571-4343, or visit


Anonymous Matthew Price said...

I always thought that NRPS were one of the most underrated bands of the 70s. Its great to see them touring again, but I doubt that I will get to see them. Thanks for the post!

Thursday, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Mark said...

I saw them at Rancho Nicasio in Marin in the 70's. What a great band!!!

Friday, January 20, 2006  

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