Where I Come From - NRPS
The Daily Freeman
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 & 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.