Let's start with a song list, shall we ?
1. Uncle John's Band
2. High Time
3. Dire Wolf
4. New Speedway Boogie
5. Cumberland Blues
6. Black Peter
7. Easy Wind
8. Casey Jones
Need I say(or type) more ?
Well, I think I will anyway. I love this record. Sure, Casey Jones is a bit overplayed, but that doesn't mean it's not a good song, and the rest of the songs are pure genius. Really some of their best work.
I think it's in the book of Hunter's lyrics "Box Of Rain", where Hunter mentions that he actually wrote "Black Peter" as an uptempo song, but that Garcia put it to the slow music, and changed it completely. And he says that he added "See here how everything..." verse after Garcia changed the tempo of the song. Okay, I went and found my copy of "Box Of Rain", and here is the quote from Hunter(p.18):
"I wrote this as a brisk piece like Kershaw's "Louisiana Man." Garcia took it seriously, though, dressing it in subtle changes and a mournful tempo. the bridge verse-"see here how everything lead up to this day..."- was written after the restructuring of the piece and reflects the additional depth of possibility provided for the song by his treatment."*
I also looked up "Cumberland Blues", and here is his note on that(p.52):"The best compliment I ever had on a lyric was from an old guy who'd worked at the Cumberland mine. He said: "I wonder what the guy who wrote this song would've thought if he'd ever known something like the Grateful Dead was gonna do it" "*
I love the country feel of the record. The vocal harmonies. I just love to put this record on and listen from start to finish.
And the images it provokes are so vivid. You can feel the menace of the Dire Wolf, it feels like you are listening to Uncle John's Band down "by the riverside". And you can see Peter laying in his bed and dying. At least I can.
As much as I love all of their music, this album(along with American Beauty) really cemented it for me. the psychedelic imagery of the first few albums is cool in it's own way, but I think the "real" images depicted in these songs are even more vivid and fascinating.
Happy birthday(last Thursday) Workingman's Dead !!
* from the book "A Box Of Rain: Collected Lyrics Of Robert Hunter" by Viking publishing.