From the Dallas Morning News (this guy GETS it!):
New Riders of the Purple Sage high in the saddle at Granada
By MATT WEITZ / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
The intersection of rock 'n' roll and country has gone through many permutations, more than a few of them centered on Texas. After all, there was Willie, then Killbilly, and current hybrids like Eleven Hundred Springs. With only about 10,000 artists in between.
But before there was a Texas progressive country scene, or alt country, or Americana, there was the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the California group that was born in the shadow of the Grateful Dead.
They went on to middling success, then petered out, but returned Thursday night at the Granada Theater to play a triumphant two-set show that was long on vibe and virtuosity.
Helmed by founding member David Nelson and longtime contributor Buddy Cage, the group – unlike many in a similar situation – didn't suffer from the addition of newer supporting members.
The band played a long, two-set show for slightly over 200 fans, starting out with "I Don't Know You" and "Watcha Gonna Do," from their self-titled 1971 debut.
Although it could have easily been an oldies show, the music was fresh and immediate. Mr. Cage is one of the most impressive pedal-steel players active these days, and all the other members of the band shared singing duties, capturing close harmonies and a certain innocent, adenoidal sound reminiscent of the Byrds and other California bands from the '60s.
Mr. Nelson was an old coffeehouse chum of Mr. Garcia's, an association underlined by a version of the grease monkey's lament "Fifteen Days Under the Hood" that sounded very much like "Truckin'," followed by the old folkie chestnut "Finario," a Dead standard.
But the band never sounded derivative or stale, even when showing its roots. Mr. Nelson's guitar leads were agile and sharp, and Mr. Cage not only delivered the swooping lyricism associated with his instrument, but a lot of unusual atmospherics as well.
In between new songs – which, entirely contrary to the cliché, were as good as the faves – the group did beloved numbers like the entrepreneurial "Henry" and the surprisingly vulnerable groupie song "Portland Woman."
They also essayed good covers, including vintage pop ("Take a Letter, Maria"), the obligatory Dylan ("Absolutely Sweet Marie") and the Rolling Stones (an epic "Let It Bleed").
An encore version of the Hunter/Garcia classic "Ripple" only underscored similarities that were present throughout the entire show. The glory of the evening was that despite their obvious footing in the past, the New Riders were not just an echo or reflection of their thing, but still a credible version of that thing itself.