New Riders On the Pleasant's Stage

By Dallas Embry

To walk through the door at Uncle Pleasant's on October 19 was to enter a time warp as the latest incarnation of New Riders of the Purple Sage brought their Twentieth Anniversary Tour to Louisville.

The current trio, consisting of NRPS founder John Dawson (lead vocals, 12-string guitar, harmonica), Russ Gauthier (fiddle, electric guitar, lap steel guitar, vocals) and Gary Vogensen (electric guitar, vocals) one of four rotating vocalist/guitarists, kept a small but very enthusiastic crowd very well entertained for an evening.

They played NRPS standards, sounding remarkably like the old New Riders -- blues, Cajun, and rock 'n' roll, as well as some songs from their soon-to-be-released album.

They opened with "Henry" and "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy," which proved the sound and feel of NRPS was still there, then played "Barbaric Splendor," one of six tunes they performed from Keep On Keepin' On, which is due to be released on MU Records around Halloween.

"It's not a Halloween kind of record," says Dawson, "the release date just worked out that way."

Vogensen got a chance to show off some impressive guitar licks when he played and sang the blues standard "Early In the Mornin'," then Gauthier picked up his fiddle, Dawson his 12-string, and the trio performed a rousing "Louisiana Lady" which got all the Cajun blood to boiling, then cooled it off with "Portland Woman" as Gauthier played some soulful lap steel guitar.

"It's a Supro," Gauthier said of his lap steel, "It came from Sears or Monkey Ward's -- no, Sears is Silvertone. It must have come from Monkey Ward's."

After they performed "Glendale Train," Dawson informed the audience that they were making it part of a trilogy with two of their new songs. They then played "Bounty Hunter" with Dawson blowing some nice harp, and "Senorita, Senorita," a Spanish ballad with Dawson on vocals and three guitars for instrumentation.

Exhorting everyone to call their local country radio stations after October 31 and request it, they played "Keep On Keepin' On," the title song of their LP and the first single to be released, then another song from their LP Change In the Weather.

They, of course, played "Panama Red" to screams, whistles and thunderous applause, reinforcing the nostalgic feel of the evening, and as an encore, "Dead Flowers."

NRPS seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the rest of us, and it was definitely one of my favorite evenings in the recent past.

Shivering Siblings, consisting of Barbara Carter (acoustic/lead vocals) and Vince Emmett (guitar, pedal steel guitar, vocals) of the group Shaking Family opened the show with an excellent set of original material, prompting Dawson to say of them, "We have had many groups open for us, and they are definitely one of the best. I hope you all support them."