Peter Rowan - Crucial Country

Peter Rowan
Crucial Country


The Music Box's #5 concert recording of 2006

First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6

Written by John Metzger


Although its scope hardly can be called comprehensive, Crucial Country: Live at Telluride, which was recorded in 1994 at Colorado’s annual bluegrass festival, provides a sterling overview of Peter Rowan’s career. Fronting an astounding backing band that includes dobro player Jerry Douglas, mandolinist and fiddler Sam Bush, bass player Viktor Krauss, percussionist Kester Smith, and drummer Larry Atamanuik, Rowan demonstrates precisely why he has become a longstanding cult hero to those within the folk, bluegrass, and jam band communities. The album’s centerpiece is a sprawling, 10-minute-plus romp through the iconic Panama Red, and the telepathic communication among the musicians allows the group to transform the song into a twisting, turning head trip. Elsewhere, the collective unleashes a fierce rendition of Howlin’ at the Moon that pits Rowan’s Dylan-esque wail against the tune’s spry mandolin and biting dobro accompaniment, while The Walls of Time, which Rowan co-wrote with the legendary Bill Monroe, rivals (and likely influenced) the potent, rock ’n‘ roll-attitude-imbued bluegrass of the Del McCoury Band. Nevertheless, it’s the show-closing pairing of Land of the Navajo and Ancient Tones that serves as Crucial Country’s highlight. In effect, what begins as an easy-going folk-rock excursion gradually mutates into a furious maelstrom of spiritual mourning. With nary a misstep among its 10 tracks, Crucial Country: Live at Telluride is not only an exquisite historical snapshot, but it also is one of the finest albums in Peter Rowan’s canon. starstarstarstar

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box