* Bluegrass Music News,
With Emphasis on Southwestern PA. *
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Rowan continues to get closer
By TOM CONWAY
Peter Rowan may be the only musician who has performed with both bluegrass patriarch Bill Monroe and Grateful Dead founder Jerry Garcia.
With a career that spans more than five decades, Rowan is at ease with hardcore and progressive bluegrass audiences equally, making him an ideal choice to close the Niles Bluegrass Festival on Sunday night.
Rowan began playing bluegrass music professionally in 1964, when he was hired as guitarist and singer for Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. In his two and a half years with Monroe, Rowan learned the fundamentals and traditions of bluegrass music.
“With Bill Monroe, he definitely wants you to keep it within the lines,” Rowan says in a phone interview from Cape Cod, Mass., where he was taking a break after performing at a benefit concert for Tibetan earthquake victims. “That was a tremendous kind of a discipline for me, so I constantly go back to that.”
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Rowan began blending bluegrass with rock and folk, forming Old & In the Way with Garcia, David Grisman, Vassar Clements and John Kahn in 1973.
Rowan says playing with Monroe helped pave the way for the more progressive style of bluegrass he played in Old & In the Way.
“With Jerry, he loved to go outside the lines,” he says. “You really have to know how to go inside the lines to be able to step outside the lines. Otherwise, it is just, like Bill used to say, note-note-note just to be noting. I am a melody guy.”
“Bill used the analogy of a hound chasing a rabbit. The rabbit will go in the same pattern over and over, and the hound will follow him. A good hound will stay with him on the pattern, and then jump across and catch the rabbit. Bill was using that analogy for fiddle tunes, but it is the same thing with melody, in general”
Since 1978, Rowan, a Grammy Award-winner and five-time nominee, has embarked on a well-received solo career. Read more.