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Best of Points North

Peter Rowan

This week on the Best of Points North we revisit an interview with Peter Rowan. At 71 years of age Rowan continues to be a vital and inspired artist who continues to mine, explore and expand on the many musical rivers and tributaries he's followed since catching the bluegrass bug back in the fifties in his native Massachusetts.

That he began his professional career in 1963 as a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys gives us an idea of his gifts as a young musician. By the time Rowan left the Bluegrass Boys he had not only learned from an American master, he had co-written what would become a bluegrass classic, "The Walls of Time", with Monroe.

Along with stints fronting roots rock bands like Earth Opera and Seatrain, he and David Grisman teamed up with Vassar Clements, John Kahn and Jerry Garcia, forming Old and in the Way, and that group recorded what would be the biggest selling bluegrass album in history until the O Brother Where Art Thou disc eclipsed those sales a few years ago.

But Rowan's adventurous spirit as a solo artist is what has set him apart from many of his talented peers. He's fused bluegrass instrumentation with reggae grooves, helped spearhead the newgrass movement, and combined contemporary themes in song with traditional bluegrass forms.

His discography is a deep well of original material that has found him working with everyone from Tex Mex giant Flaco Jimenez to dobro master Jerry Douglas to his younger sibblings Lorin and Chris and more recently with bluegrass guitar giant Tony Rice.

Rowan's songs have been recorded by numerous artists including Ricky Scaggs, George Strait, Jerry Garcia, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Emmylou Harris and String Cheese Incident to name a few.

A documentary on his life is near completion as Rowan continues to tour regularly in a variety of settings, and his latest album for compass records is a terrific collection of new bluegrass originals titled The Old School.

Head to peter-rowan.com for more information on this fine artist.


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