The Lasting Legacy of Peter Rowan

Image courtesy of artist and is not the property of Jazz88-KBEM

Peter Rowan doesn’t need to perform and tour. At 80-years-old, the man has put in his time and forged a bluegrass legacy—from coming up with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys in the 60s, to recording and performing with the likes of David Grisman, Clarence White, Bill Keith, and, as was my introduction to him, the classic bluegrass “supergroup”, Old & In the Way, where he joined forces (and wrote a number of hits) with Grisman (mandolin), Vassar Clements (fiddle), John Kahn (bass), and The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia (banjo), to now, with 2022’s Calling You From My Mountain release, his 27th as a solo artist.

I think a good deal of Rowan’s enduring legacy and lasting relevancy owes to his willingness to record and perform with the next, younger generation of bluegrass musicians—such as namedrop-able artists like Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle, both of whom Rowan mentioned from stage, and both of whom are listed as collaborators on his latest release. This is a willingness not always found in the genre, and not only does it lift up these younger players, but I get the sense that it adds a rejuvenated youthfulness into well-established acts like Peter Rowan and his songwriting.

Both his sense of youthfulness and chops as a songwriter were on full display at the Dakota on Saturday night (5/13). He was joined by Chris Henry (mandolin, vocals—who’s playing and singing definitely stood out from the bunch), Max Wareham (banjo), Julian Pinelli (fiddle), and Eric Thorin on bass, who took the spotlight with a couple of very proficient, tasteful bass leads throughout the evening.

It was a career-spanning set, with Rowan remarking that the band was feeling a bit “silly” that evening and that it’s “the last show for a while, so we might get a little self-indulgent.” We were all the better off, letting his indulgences fly, and what really struck me was how funny he is. He was charming, self-deprecating, cheeky. A highlight was, at one point, while struggling a bit with tuning his guitar by ear, he noted the absence from any sort of tuner on stage with him, remarking “If we’d have had tuners, the 60s never would’ve happened.” Brilliant, Peter. – Andrew Diemand

Rough setlist:

Tallahassee (Bill Monroe)
Lonesome L.A. Cowboy
Panama Red
Just Me And The Jukebox (Buzz Busby) – w/ lead vocals by Chris Henry
The Rainbow Ride (Jimmy Arnold)
Uncle Pen (Monroe)
Hobo Song
New York Town (Woody Guthrie)
Light at the End of the World
From My Mountain (Calling You)
Rawhide (Monroe)
Corrine, Corrina ? (unsure of song title)
Midnight Moonlight
Reggae Medley – Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Harry Belafonte)/Sloop John B (trad.)/Rivers of Babylon (The Melodians)
Will the Circle Be Unbroken

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