A stalwart of the festival scene, singer-bassist John Cowan joined the trailblazing "progressive" bluegrass band New Grass Revival in the early '70s, and was with the band until its dissolution in the 1990s. An natural-born eclectic, Cowan mixes bluegrass, country, pop-rock and folk -- in addition to his own solo albums, he's worked extensively as a session player, and as an erstwhile member of the Doobie Brothers rock band. Here's a quick look at his work...
John Cowan "Soul'd Out" (Sugar Hill, 1998)
Cowan's first solo album following the breakup of New Grass Revival...
John Cowan "John Cowan" (Sugar Hill, 2000)
John Cowan "Always Take Me Back" (Sugar Hill, 2002)
John Cowan "New Tattoo" (Pinecastle, 2006)
Hmmm. Well, I will say this: John Cowan has a remarkably youthful voice. It would be easy to mistake this veteran newgrasser's earnest, anguished tones for those of a twenty-year-old jam-band rocker, as well as the enthusiasm he brings to what are often rather dorky, gangly tunes. The novelty-oriented title track is a disaster, a complete, manic misfire, but the rest of the songs have some pleasant surprises. Cowan adds his voice to the chorus of folkie elders who are recording songs that are either obliquely critical of or reflective about the disasterous consequences of the Iraq War. Like many of these songs, Cowan's "With A Memory Like Mine," which deals with a father's grief when his son is killed abroad, doesn't tackle the event head on, preferring instead to keep the lyrics more generalized, and thus more timeless. Still, we all know what these guys are singing about... Like many of the tracks on this disc, though, the song is played at a breakneck speed, and I suppose that it's this exhausting pace which keeps me from getting into this album... The material is good, but there's a uniformity to the approach that got on my nerves... Still, it's in keeping with Cowan's long history as a bluegrass'n'country modernizer... Longtime fans will want to check it out...
John Cowan "8,745 Feet: Live At Telluride" (Koch, 2009)
John Cowan "Comfort And Joy" (Koch, 2009)
A fun, funky acoustic Christmas set from John Cowan of New Grass Revival, singing in a variety of styles. The more straight-up hymnal-type holiday tunes don't do much for me, but the more free-wheeling newgrass novelty songs are fun. Give 'er a spin!
John Cowan "The Massenberg Sessions" (E1, 2010)
John Cowan "Sixty" (Compass, 2014)
(Produced by John McFee)
Hick Music Index