BY KATHERINE SILKAITIS | Special to The Courant
June 4, 2009
The self-proclaimed psychedelic cowboy band New Riders of the Purple
Sage formed back in 1969, broke up nearly 20 years later and
re-formed as a quintet with two of the original members in 2005.
"We're not new kids on the block," says pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage.
When they first came together, it was because the Grateful Dead's
Jerry Garcia wanted to play pedal-steel guitar with a band. Though he
left a few years later, the band maintained a long association with
the Grateful Dead and became a mainstay in the psychedelic,
roots-oriented music of the 1970s.
The re-formed band features original members Cage and David Nelson
plus Michael Falzarano, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski. They
released their first album of new material, "Where I Come From," last
Tuesday and among the 12 tracks are seven by Nelson and Grateful Dead
lyricist Robert Hunter. Like the band's older material, there are
heavy blues and rock influences, with meandering, improvisational
guitar noodling and psychedelic undertones. The addition of three new
members hasn't changed the group's ethos or sound.
"Everybody coming in is just guaranteed to uplift what was already
New Riders and take it further," Cage says. "A lot of the older
generational audiences have taken to the new additional guys, and
it's wonderful. It's not like a replacement or a facsimile. It's just
that these guys put so much into it from their own standpoint."
Cage and Nelson departed the original group in 1982 and coming
together again more than two decades later could have gone badly. But
Cage explains, "We ended up playing together because we listen to
each other a lot. You almost listen without knowing you're doing it.
You absorb what the other guy is doing while he's doing it and you
play little nuances over him. ... It's really refreshing to know that
we're able to play the new songs in a way that we can get it done
with a whole lot of efficacy and grace."
The recording of "Where I Come From," Cage says, illustrates his
point. "It's evidence that we did a lot of studio cuts in one or two
takes. The whole damn track, everything. It sounds refreshing, and
it's pleasing to know that in one take, you've got it."
NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE performs Friday, June 5, at 9 p.m., at
the Main Pub, 306 Main St., Manchester. Tickets are $25-$30.
Information: 860-647-1551 and www.mainpub.com.