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Published: 2009/10/14
by Brian Robbins

Jeff Austin: Not All Show

“Not your cliché mando player”

From the legendary Buddy Cage, pedal steel guitarist for The New Riders of the Purple Sage:

“Our appearance at the Northwest String Summit in 2007 happened because of Yonder Mountain String Band’s invitation to the New Riders to join them on the show. Since I had met Yonder thru an interview I chaired on Sirius Radio, I cared very much what they were about and what they played. It was a natural for Jeff Austin to sit in with us at Horning’s Hideout – Jeff’s NOT your cliché mando player. He’s SO unique and fell right in with us. A real treat.

“Yonder also provided us with an introduction that will live on in NRPS’ musical history, delivered by their colleague, Pastor Tim. Our late founder, John Dawson joined us for that concert to sing his song, “Portland Woman” (in Portland!!! his final public performance) all because of the courtesy and kindness of Yonder Mountain String Band!

“Jeff’s amazing contribution to “Garden Of Eden” was the perfect complement to a song that is as significant now, as it was in 1970. Thanks, Jeff …”

Buddy Cage calls ‘em like he sees ‘em – the good, the bad, and the ugly. If he doesn’t like something, he’ll tell ya – and if he says he likes something, he means it. In a recent note Buddy’d sent me regarding the New Riders’ ’07 appearance at Yonder Mountain String Band’s annual Northwest String Summit, he reflected on the experience – which turned out to be NRPS founder John “Marmaduke” Dawson’s final performance with the band.

The soundboard of the New Riders’ set for 8/24/07 is a piece of work – a piece of history, really. You can feel the love and support from his bandmates as John Dawson takes the mike for a bit towards the end of the set, his voice wavery and weakened, but his spirit feisty as ever.

The first time I heard a recording of the show, my ears had perked up about halfway through the Riders’ set. With little fanfare (“Any of you guys know this guy?”), the Riders bring someone up onto the stage as they start the slow, ominous, tumbling swirl into “Garden of Eden.” The bass growls, drums roll, Telecasters bark, and the pedal steel howls a warning – and in the midst of the chaos comes a sound not usually heard on a New Riders recording these days: a mandolin. Jeff Austin is in the house, folks. A polite guest, he weaves a little tremolo into things delicately, shifting into rhythm mode as the band rumbles into the first verse.

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