New Riders of the Purple Sage

Live in Japan

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This is, essentially, the Riders' unplugged album--no bass or drums, just three guys with guitars and microphones, They're on good form here, particularly newcomer Rusty Gauthier, who does a pretty good imitation of a pedal steel player on a humble Stratocaster. The Japanese audience seems to know all the group's songs.

However, perhaps in recognition of the fact that when this album was recorded founding Rider John Dawson had most likely sung "Henry" more times than Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow," the band wisely varies the program with authoritative versions of Grateful Dead classics. These include a version of "Dire Wolf" that really nails the "high lonesome" sound the Riders sometimes missed on their own albums.

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