Rowan made his bones in the early ’60s, singing and playing guitar with Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys. Later a member of the rock bands Earth Opera and Seatrain, he settled into a blend of traditional bluegrass, folk favorites, and original tunes.
Conceived to honor the “Luke the Drifter” recitations of longtime hero Hank Williams, Calling You evolved into something more eclectic. He, with banjoist Max Wareham, fiddler Julian Pinelli, mandolin picker Chris Henry, and bassist Eric Thorin, retain a bluegrass sound. Rowan adds a flatpicking break to “Veil of Deja Blue,” while the entire band kicks along “New York Town.” Rowan, Wareham, and Henry excel on the instrumentals “Come Along Jody” and Monroe’s “Frog on the Lily Pad.” Molly Tuttle’s clawhammer banjo enhances “The Red, The White and The Blue.”
Rowan’s picking turns bluesy on “The Song that Made Hank Williams Dance,” and continues by adding Lightnin’ Hopkins licks to his bluegrass recasting of Hopkins’s “Penitentiary Blues.” Billy Strings and his ’44 D-28 contribute graceful arpeggios to “A Winning Hand” and dazzling leads to “Freedom Trilogy.”
Rowan had a different concept at the start, yet the final results here are consistent with his longtime artistic vision.
This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.