Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rita Small Reviews Peter Rowan – “The Old School”

Image635037658859281396It is 2am and something draws me from bed and compels me to begin writing this review. Not in the usual way, no laptop, no touchpad, all I need is a notebook and a pen. I know, sometimes the old school way is just better.

Nevertheless, why does this assignment need to be handled in this manner? Has the project I have been listening to for the past weeks rubbed off on me? Or, as I suspect, will paper and pen make it easier to follow my ramblings through the inevitable editing process necessary when the time comes to finally convey my thoughts to the laptop about this simple yet profoundly complex project that Peter Rowan has compiled.

Image635031716255988075“The Old School” is a wonderfully entertaining project in which Mr. Rowan gives listeners ten original songs, one traditional song with his personalized stellar arrangement, and for those purchasing the CD, a bonus track…a reprise of the title cut, featuring Eddie Stubbs. Image635031695202043858

For this project, Rowan and producer Alison Brown, have brought together artists that, aside from being a Who’s Who of Bluegrass’ Old School in their own right, have paved the way for, and continue to be, the inspiration for many Bluegrass artists today.

In the opening song, and title track, Rowan gives us the two simple rules of The Old School: pick it clean and play it true. These two rules set the tone for the remainder of the project. Listeners will be hard-pressed to find anyone straying from these Image635031688188952732rules. Another testament to the talent of Rowan’s songwriting ability is that you can picture Rowan and his fellow artists living the things he writes about in this track. Experiencing life and paying their dues in those formative years of the music that we all hold so dear.

These two rules are what create the simple and yet complex undertones of this project. Upon first hearing a song, one thinks Rowan has written a nice quaint melody. Then the song beckons you to listen again and you hear the subtle chord or the lyric that catches your attention and begs to be heard again. In an industry where song selection is so vital, Rowan proves through his choice of putting these songs into “The Old School” that he is the Head Master.

While every song on this project made me smile, perhaps none more so, than Rowan’s touching and heartfelt tribute, “Doc Watson Morning”. One listen and the admiration is upfront. Image635031696767573401The respect, impact, and genuine influence that Doc had on Rowan’s life is unmistakable. However, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the impeccable guitar accompaniment of Bryan Sutton on this tune. Sutton’s notes are a perfect extension of the words that Rowan has penned. This tribute will definitely gain the attention of Doc Watson fans and garner a few new fans as well.

Image635031701151454145Another highlight on the project is the duet, “Stealin’ My Time”, which Rowan performs with Bobby Osborne. This twist on a not so perfect love song is written in the way that only Peter Rowan can write. The lyrics make the listener stop, pause, and catch-up with the witty and playful wording. Osborne’s tenor voice, while showing some experience, is still unmistakable and blends so effortlessly with Rowan’s. Mr. Osborne’s appearance on the project is all the more poignant when one reads the inside jacket of the CD and discovers that Rowan has dedicated the project Sonny Osborne.

Image635031702075587002Image635031706433086237On the project, Rowan has written the stirring four-part harmony gospel number, “My Savior is Callin’ Me”. Joining Rowan on this number is Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, and Jason Carter. I will venture out on a limb and say; quite a few groups will be going back to school and studying this tune.

Image635031712531955072Image635031712784869538Rowan’s original song “True Love to Last”, speaks volumes in a chilling reminder that love is but a fleeting moment in time. Don Rigsby adds harmony vocals and mandolin, while J.D. Crowe lends his talent on banjo. Perhaps, the listener can take away another life lesson from the old school on this cut.

“The Old School” is anything but what the title implies. Listeners will find this collection of timeless music relevant today, tomorrow, and for years to come. After all, it is Peter Rowan, who is timeless in his own right. Throughout the collection, Rowan reminds us that he and his friends still have what it takes to create and share innovative music with those still cutting their teeth in the music business.

“The Old School” is a gentle reminder of why those that are from the Old School of Bluegrass have stood the test of time when so many are here today and gone tomorrow. Just follow two simple rules…pick it clean and play it true.


To have your CD considered for review, contact: Rita Small  for specific submission and mailing instructions.

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