Day 94: Big Railroad Blues, 10/26/71

Grateful Dead Download Series 3 album cover artwork

Usually the straight up blues numbers that I like the most from the Dead come courtesy of Mr. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, but this is one of the outliers in that set.

At least the versions of Big Railroad Blues from this period really get me going. They both rock and roll, and are incredibly danceable. This song to me is a more palatable option in lieu of El Paso or Mexicali Blues. If given the option I’d take Big Railroad Blues every time.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Let me know how so in the comments.

This bouncy blues number picks up steam as the song progresses. The sound is a bit thin to my ears, but the playing is spot on. As the song progresses Phil’s bass starts to take on a deeper presence and Keith’s playing emerges in flourishes. Jerry and Bob play some parallel lines at times that sync up well. We’re not talking Allman Brothers here, it’s much more subtle than that.

Jerry’s solo embellishes the main melody throughout and Phil thumps right along behind him. One more quick verse and the song comes to an end much faster than anticipated. If you ever need a blues number that will make you shake your bones, look no further than the Grateful Dead’s take on Big Railroad Blues. Jerry addresses the crowd after the song to try to alleviate the squished fans in the front. What a nice guy!

Complete Setlist 10/26/71

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