Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band -- Legacy
Peter Rowan left Massachusetts in 1964 to play guitar and sing with Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys – the legacy band in bluegrass music. After serving his three-year apprenticeship with the father of bluegrass music, he’s gone on to make all kinds of music from Tex-Mex to folk, from reggae to rock ‘n’ roll, with frequent returns to make some of the best bluegrass albums north of Kentucky.
Legacy, featuring an all-star set of musicians is surely the finest album of traditional, by-the-rules bluegrass music I’ve heard this year. Peter’s songwriting is first-rate, his singing has remained virtually unparalleled over many decades, and he’s surrounded himself with a dream band with the great Jody Stecher, one of our finest folk artists, on mandolin, Keith Little on banjos and Paul Knight on bass. All three add superb harmonies and Jody and Keith each take a lead vocal. There’s is also a great Jody Stecher instrumental track that includes Tim O’Brien sitting in on fiddle.
The other guests on the album are Del McCoury and Ricky Skaggs who join Peter for some close gospel harmonies on “God’s Own Child,” and singer Gillian Welch and guitarist David Rawlings who add something special to the quasi-gospel “So Good.”
Among the other highlights are “The Family Demon,” sung from the perspective of a young boy determined to not be defeated by his violently abusive father, “Jailer, Jailer,” a somewhat oblique song that seems to suggest that the psychological bonds one enforces on himself can be stronger than the steel bars of a jail cell, and “Across the Rolling Hills,” which seems to combine Eastern and Western spiritualism. Spiritualism, in some form or another, seems to be the pervasive theme of much of this album.