This cut from the expanded version of Workingman’s Dead is a real treat for two reasons.
1. Bobby sings lead
2. Jerry plays pedal steel
I remember hearing a discussion about this somewhere, perhaps on Tales from the Golden Road, that the reason that Bobby sang lead here is because Jerry was playing pedal steel and couldn’t do both at the same time. Makes sense. I don’t know how many versions are out there with Bobby singing lead, but it’s safe to say they’re rare if any others do exist.
Dire Wolf is a really great song, and at least one essay argues that it was THE song that signaled a shift from the primal/baroque Dead period to the song-focused, country-inflected music of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. It’s a long piece but definitely worth a read.
The solo is all pedal steel. This is great because Garcia coaxes sounds unattainable on the standard guitar. Weir bangs out the chords on an acoustic guitar for a nice contrast as well. The whole thing is over in a blur of pedal steel licks and exhortations for one’s life.