Monday, March 30, 2009

Cold Rain and Snow - Grateful Dead Song Review

This is a Grateful Dead song that was played throughout the band's entire career and one that I enjoy in every incarnation.

The later the version of this song that you hear, the slower it will be. I really like the late era slow versions where Jerry "grinds out" the main riff painstakingly note by note. Whatever the year this song was played, you'll hear Jerry played the to same original guitar solo from the studio version. There's little or no soloing from Jerry other than this predetermined segment. I think the Dead needed a song like this which after the first hundred times or so probably played itself.

I wonder if this song was an opener because of the simplicity and familiarity of the parts? The lyrics seem like they would be very easy to remember (the three "verses" are two lines each). It would seem to be a great warmup tune for these reasons.

The lyrics for Cold Rain and Snow have a little bit of that sly hubris of Jerry singing the part of the husband who has had it with his "troublesome" wife. Is it really that she's cold or perhaps our protagonist is looking for an excuse to have a wandering eye?

Well she's comin' down the stairs, combing back her yellow hair
And I'm going where those chilly winds don't blow

I'm reminded of Shady Grove which has a similar theme of the man who's had it with his wife (and wants to explore other options).

This song is credited to the Grateful Dead on Wikipedia but I always assumed it was a traditional song that they were covering. On the great site of "Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics" it credits McGanahan Skjellyfetti - which is no doubt some sort of silly alias the band created.

Cold Rain and Snow is one of my favorite opening songs. Again, I have to mention that very few songs were great throughout the Dead's entire career and actually got better with time. In comparison, I have a hard time enjoying older (70's) versions of Eyes of the World and Bird Song because they were so rushed and didn't have the maturity of later versions. Cold Rain and Snow hits the spot every time - no matter what show and what year. Very consistent tune.

Cold Rain and Snow Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.1

Disclaimer: This is part of my review of every Grateful Dead song from A-Z. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion (and be sure to read my blog manifesto to understand a little more about where I'm coming from).

1 comment:

Arthur C. Hurwitz said...

The song was originally recorded by Obray Ramsey see: Also found on
When I was first introduced to the Music of the Grateful Dead more than 30 years ago as a teenager, I used to say to the Deadheads that much of the G"D repertoire sounds like folk music and they responsded with incredulity as if the suggestion that any of their music was not entirely original was offensive. But I was proved correct, as this video and even more so, the record associated with this link verifies.