Cold Rain and Snow

Cold Rain and Snow

“Cold Rain and Snow” is another song pulled from the catalog of American folk music. This traditional was inspired by Obray Ramsey’s rendering with a solo banjo, and it is likely Garcia was attracted to it from his banjo playing days. The song would remain in the repertoire until the end. Again, we have a certain commitment to material that would be proven over time. The sentiment of Cold Rain speaks to the types of tales that, with their emotional content, would attract the Dead. The wonder of folk music and ballads is in the story that is told, or often half-told, without complete context. It leaves a canvas to shade and color, which was what the Dead did. This can arguably open the music for the listener to bring their experience, their emotional baggage, maybe their empathy, and sort of convene or commune for catharsis. This is something you can’t miss if you follow the Dead’s catalog. While Cold Rain is a simple emotional vignette of spousal dissatisfaction, the Dead’s up-tempo rendition all but demolishes the haunting Appalachian mood in Ramsey’s version. The singer’s escapism or resolve is forged into determination to go “where those chilly winds don’t blow.” The theme of basically bailing out of a bad situation may be viewed as escapism—but at the same time the resolve to do so is what can be liberating, and again the Grateful Dead are able to take tension, draw it out and take the listener to some place they want to go but perhaps won’t allow themselves. Like in Fuller’s “Beat It on Down the Line,” “Cold Rain” gives solace to the oppressed. The fact that the original essentially calls up the familiar or archetypal portraits ingrained in the collective experience, the Grateful Dead render these with their own spirit or attitude, laid over the template of the traditional. The effect on “Cold Rain” is a kind of joviality and resolve in the face of the subject matter, taking a pitiable character and tingeing him with a sense of humor, all the while remaining cautionary, oddly enough. Despite the hard luck of the singer, this version is a head-bopping number that could almost make the listener miss the sorrow altogether, or perhaps touch sorrow with the strength of someone ready to move forward.

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