The Rowan Brothers
First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2003, Volume 10, #6
Written by John Metzger
Peter, Chris, and Lorin Rowan are pioneers in the field of progressive bluegrass. On their latest album Crazy People, the trio — with a little help from friends such as Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Flaco Jimenez — incorporates the genre’s traditional instrumentation, layering tight vocals over a bed of acoustic guitar, bass, violin, mandolin, and dobro, but the resulting sound strays pretty far from standard bluegrass fare. In fact, it’s all over the map. Beginning with a bit of Tin Pan Alley-pop, the group shimmies its way through the calypso-beat of Don’t Pick the Blossom Before the Flower Grows and gleefully swings its way through the jazzy In 1999. Both Pretty Senorita and a splendid remake of Free Mexican Airforce show off the ensemble’s penchant for Latin-tinged tunes, while on Red Rockin’ Chair, the Rowans ride within the intoxicating slipstream of a New Orleans-baked groove.
Peter Rowan’s solo outing Reggaebilly, isn’t quite as diverse a set, though it does take a similar "turn it inside-out" approach to bluegrass. The result isn’t necessarily something that’s all that new as the music sounds an awful lot like a collaboration among Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, and David Lindley. Forget that, however, and just know that it works quite well. Recorded in Jamaica at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios, Rowan involved some of the area’s best studio artists — including ex-Wailer Chinna Smith — in re-crafting a pair of standards (Little Maggie and The Cuckoo Bird) as well as a batch of his own newly penned folk songs. Rather than leave the island influence completely intact, he then asked Nashville luminaries Jerry Douglas, Eddie Adcock, Stuart Duncan, Bill Holden, and Bryn Bright to augment the material, giving it a gloriously earthy undertone. Whether grooving on the smooth sailing instrumental Sky Dancer or the gentle lilt of I Don’t Want to Live Without Your Love, Rowan couldn’t sound more relaxed and at home in guiding his supporting cast through their sunny supplication.
Crazy People — ˝
Crazy People is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Reggaebilly is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box