On the cover, Bowman holds his new Gibson AJ in a decidedly non luthier-approved manner – by the soundhole. This pose typifies his relaxed and informal approach to bluegrass. He’s so comfortable and well versed in bluegrass’ essence that he doesn’t have to try to sound bluegrass; Bowman just is bluegrass.
Ronnie Bowman joined his first band in 1988. He later became a member of the Lonesome River Band, where he stayed for 11 years. During this time he played on other Lonesome River band members’ solo efforts as well as issuing his own first solo release, Cold Virginia Night, in 1994. It won IBMA album of the year, male vocalist of the year, and song of the year honors. In ’98 Bowman’s The Man I’m Trying to Be won for male vocalist of the year, song of the year, and gospel recorded performance of the year.
In ’02, Bowman’s third solo album, Starting Over, was released shortly after he left the Lonesome River. It, too, garnered critical praise.
All but three of the songs on It’s Getting Better All The Time are Bowman originals. These three give you a taste of Bowman’s wide tastes and influences. The ballad “Old Flames” by Hugh Moffat glides along at a slow waltz time while “Four Wheel Drive” by Larry Rice and “Walkin’ the Dog” by E.M and W.C. Grimsley crackle with high-octane bluegrass energy. Bowman’s original songs span a gamut of emotions and styles, from the giddy “Build a Little Playhouse” to the pensive “On My Way Back Home.” My personal favorite is the title cut, which has all the attributes to be a top contender for IBMA’s song of the year in ’06.
It’s Getting Better All The Time cements Bowman’s place as one of the finest songwriters and most distinctive voices in bluegrass.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.