Gypsy Cowboy (Bonus Tracks)

New Riders of the Purple Sage

Gypsy Cowboy (Bonus Tracks)

John Dawson—the New Riders’ singer, main songwriter, and onetime Grateful Dead cohort—was blessed with a sweet croon and the ability to write songs that told of weed-enhanced dreams of better lives somewhere out beyond the desert sunsets. Dawson and bassist Dave Torbert wrote stellar and timely country rock tunes that ran the gamut from pop (the lovely “Linda,” “Superman,” “Sutter’s Mill”) to storyteller yarns (“Whiskey,” “Gypsy Cowboy”). There’s lots of acoustic guitar, slide, mandolin, and fiddle, plus some piano and even the occasional yodeling on this 1973 album (the band’s third). But what really separates this from the era’s country-rock chaff was pedal steel player Buddy Cage, whose humming passages often sounded as big as the New Mexican sky. Even if “Death and Destruction” and “On My Way Back Home” borrow from early-’70s Neil Young, they’re still soaring heart-warmers thanks to Cage’s stunning lilts and Dawson’s honeyed, around-a-campfire voice. Dawson and Cage lift Gypsy Cowboy to that ever-elusive “cosmic American music” status so sought after by Gram Parsons.

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