Yes, the New Riders of the Purple Sage have been around since 1969. But for those of you just discovering the band through college radio or jam-band festivals, they’re not just living off their past legacy as a Grateful Dead spin-off when Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart joined John Dawson and David Nelson to form the original band. NRPS are still touring and recording new and original material under guitarist-vocalist Nelson’s leadership.
David Nelson and company rode into Jillian’s last Friday to entertain both their new fans and those who have stuck by them for years. Their punchy dual lead-guitar attack fueled the crossover sound of the band’s classic rockin’ country-bluegrass-rockabilly-roots sound with a little funk thrown in.
Nelson’s biting guitar added accents to both Michael Falzarano’s intricate guitar-leads (Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen) and Buddy Cage’s pedal-steel fluid wails and twangs. Former Jerry Garcia Band members drummer Johnny Markowski and bassist Ronnie Penque held down the solid rhythm with aplomb.
NRPS road-tested a few new songs that will be put down in the studio next month for their upcoming album, due later this year. But most of the tunes on their setlist were written by Nelson and Robert Hunter, including the title track of their latest release, “Where I Come From,” “Higher” and “Carl Perkins Wears the Crown.”
And, of course, no NRPS concert would be complete with out their vintage classics thrown in, too, including those drawn from their most successful 1970s hit album, “The Adventures Of Panama Red.”
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk