I have commented on Rowan's evocative debut album on this blog.
Check that entry for background on his truly interesting career in music and some other bits and pieces on his style of country music.
I said this in relation to his debut album, "This album is Rowan's solo debut and in some ways he takes a step back … but not into straight bluegrass. He could have gone any number of ways but here he has contemporary country rock sounds but with a overlay of music past … a little straight country, some yodelling, a bit of Tex Mex, bluegrass".
This is his third solo album and he doesn't deviate much from his debut. And, why would you if the formula worked so well?
Where he does play with the formula is by adding even more musical memories to the mix ..there is some country white gospel, Hawaiian, and folk. Only touches but enough to make the whole mix as much a Americana album as a country album … with an emphasis on the American south west.
You can almost taste the dust.
The magnificent Flaco Jimenez on accordion, bluegrass legends Ricky Skaggs, David Grisman, Jerry Douglas and Mike Auldridge play session, and Maria Muldaur and country vocal group The Whites provide backing vocals. There is a lot of country and roots music talent here.
But, talent or not this music sinks or survives on the strengths of its songs. The songs sound authentic and that would be enough to keep any country fan happy but what I find interesting is that Rowan injects contemporary lyrics in among the traditional sounds (much like John Hartford does).
Maybe it's because he was largely an urban cowboy but his tales are peopled by contemporary (1980) people with contemporary problems. It's not overt but it is there. Ponies are still "saddled" and trails are still "rode" though sometimes only in dreams and memories.
What remains, though, is pure Americana.
All tracks composed by Peter Rowan, except where indicated. And, produced by him.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Riding High in Texas – Any album that has a song that starts off with an accordion can't be bad. Excellent. This is a gentle Tex Mex song, more gentle than say something Doug Sahm ( or Flaco Jimenez himself, who provides accordion here) would do but still beautifully evocative.
- My Foolish Pride – a country song about love breaking down. How many of these are there? This is (another) good one.
- River of Stone – More accordion in a melancholy song about the narrator and an old drifter.
- Revelation – a country gospel which is perfectly authentic despite references to Bhudda as well as Jesus.
- Living on the Line – whoa, almost late 70s country soft rock like The Doobie Brothers or The Eagles at their mellowest
- Medicine Trail – Country rock in the style of later Neil Young with Crazy Horse. Perhaps the label thought this would be the most marketable song on the album and named the album after it. It has some interesting lyrics but isn't as interesting as some of the other tunes that have preceded it on this album.
- Blues Come Bother Me – a blues in the country blues style of Jimmie Rodgers, complete with a gentle yodel. Beautiful.
- Dreaming I Love You – a country song of love and yearning as only country can do them. Very much in the style of Jerry Garcia's "Old and in the Way" (which Rowan was a member of)
- Maui Mama – a touch of Hawaiian …naturally enough in country music.
- Prairie Lullabye – (Jimmie Rodgers / George Brown) – a cover of the Jimmie Rodgers classic from 1932. Melancholy and perfectly done by Rowan.
Another winner … I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
Riding High in Texas
River of Stone
Dreaming I Love You
- Tony Gilkyson plays guitar on this album. He is the son of songwriter and folk musician Terry Gilkyson ("The Easy Riders") and later was in Lone Justice and X.