New Riders of the Purple Sage

This December, Grateful Web had the opportunity to catch up with guitarist, singer and songwriter Michael Falzarano. Michael is a tenured veteran of legendary bands New Riders of the Purple Sage and Hot Tuna, a regular contributor at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch, and bandleader of his own long-standing Memphis Pilgrims and Dead Tribute group, The Englishtown Project.

I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving. I like being with family, the time off from work and of course all the decadent trimmings, but sadly it now signifies personal tragedy. Even the weeks heading towards Turkey Day causes debilitating anxiety. (Try not to die on a major holiday. It makes the healing process more arduous.) This year, due to the pandemic, my emotional state is much worse. I will be home instead of trying to enjoy a little vacation get-a-way to distract from the nightmare that transpired. Avoiding the day and skipping straight to Christmas never seemed like a possibility.

Omnivore Recordings today announced its titles for Record Store Day/Black Friday, observed by brick and mortal music retail establishments (and their rabid fans) during Thanksgiving weekend, Friday, November 23.

Ronnie Penque will release his second studio album titled "Family Business". The album features 9 new songs written and produced by Penque including the hit tune "Wookie Kids". Family Business is an eclectic collection of cool songs featuring extended jams, smooth harmonies, and catchy hooks. It’s a classic rock album with cross over country flare. Included in the album are a couple of songs with The New Riders of The Purple Sage. Buddy Cage’s pedal steel guitar drives through you as Penque and crew rock these tunes.

The Grateful Dead – New Riders of the Purple Sage – Marshall Tucker Band concert on September 3, 1977, is a special moment in the Dead’s legendary career. The largest concert in New Jersey history, it drew well over 100,000 fans to hear the Dead in spectacular form (and after a three-month break necessitated by Mickey Hart’s car accident and broken shoulder). Not just the Dead: as Mike Falzarano toured with the New Riders a few years later, most shows would include someone saying that they’d seen the Riders at Englishtown.

Mapache | Lonesome L.A. Cowboy | Fox Theatre | 12/6/18

And what musical lives they’ve been! Nelson and Cage, both synonymous with many decades of NRPS’ psychedelicized countrified stylings, have entertained concert audiences and home listeners with many, many other bands – Nelson with the David Nelson Band, as well as Old & In the Way, Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, The Good Old Boys, Dead Ringers, Al Rapone & the Zydeco Express, The Papermill Creek Rounders, and way back in the early 1960s with the Wildwood Boys bluegrass band alongside Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Cage, in addition to his storied career with the NRPS, has delivered his trademark pedal steel guitar articulations with Great Speckled Bird, Stir Fried, Solar Circus, The Brooklyn Cowboys, Terry & the Pirates, and on substantial studio work with Bob Dylan and Anne Murray.

Ronnie Penque of The New Riders of the Purple Sage brings us his new project Panama Dead. Panama Dead is a tribute to the music of the classic New Riders of the Purple Sage. Panama Dead plays all the classic NRPS songs like Henry, Last Lonely Eagle, Glendale Train, Panama Red and many more. The band is: Ronnie Penque on bass guitar and lead vocals, Mike Flynn on lead guitar and vocals, Wayne Wilson on pedal steel guitar, Kevin Johnson on drums and Jeff Pearlman on keyboards and vocals.

In the past few years since Fare Thee Well, as Grateful Dead music has morphed into its own genre, what bands play and how they play it has become an interesting series of choices.  Do they want to play it straight, or do they want to interpret it through a filter (heavy metal, Celtic, Bluegrass, Hawaiian slack key guitar, etc.)?  Do they want to emphasize the material the band played when they first became Dead Heads, or do they want to sample around?  Good argument-starter:  Is the best year 1972, or 1977, or 1989?  Or fill in the blank...

The strangest thing happened; Grateful Dead music became its own genre, a language spoken by musicians across the country (and danced to by Dead Heads, same).  Each band plays it its own way, but Live Dead ’69 has certain advantages.

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