catalog-no. tx 3013
country / folk - 1999
Pathways of the Heart (129K)
My Father's Son (79K)
Circle of Friends (80K)
There are artists who reach their creative peak early in their careers. They burn for a short while and fade from view for good. But there are artists also who reach their prime much later and after many ups and downs. They may start early as well, success may come and go, they may disappear – but all of a sudden there's a culmination of everything that went on before in the form of a mature album that documents what this particular artist is all about. Lorin Rowan is such an artist and REBEL SONS, his first TAXIM release is such an album. Naturally, Lorin's last name brings to mind a number of aspects of musical history for those music lovers who are familiar the last 30 years of American roots music - so let us recap:
Along with his older brothers Peter and Chris, Lorin Rowan was born and raised in Wayland, Mass., about 20 miles west of Boston. Life was pretty stable and ordered for the Rowans. Dad sang in college and church choirs and everybody liked music, especially the pre-and postwar popular songs of the day. Still, some eyebrows were raised in concern when all three of the brothers decided on a professional career as musicians....
With Lorin Rowan it's baby-boomer territory again, and the pattern is still the same – step 1: rock'n'roll invades the white middle-class home of the Rowans with the music of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly and parental hopes and visions for a traditional career and family life are undermined forever. Step 2: the arrival of The Beatles, Beach Boys and - in Lorin Rowan's case - Bob Dylan and The Band. Music stands for a new kind of youthful energy and an utopian view of a life where the myths of American philosophy are interpreted in a way that makes sense. And so the counterculture breaks into the hearts and minds of young white Americans everywhere. Lorin Rowan's musical tastes alternate between the nice folk harmonies of the Kingston Trio or Everly Brothers and the poetic brillance of Bob Dylan. In turn, his brother Peter develops a deep fascination and love for authentic bluegrass music. And then there's step 3: the formation of high school bands who start out covering The Ventures and later turn to the British Invasion repertoire of bands like The Kinks or The Zombies. In the Rowan case, the handsome Chris & Lorin Rowan are making waves as acoustic folk-pop duo 'The Rowan Brothers' soon after having finished high school. They even land a one album deal with Columbia and it's none other than Peter Rowan's ex-Earth Opera partner David Grisman who sets out to produce them. The brothers are off for Northern California in no time at all....
Settling in Marin County, they soon get to know Grisman's bluegrass pal Jerry Garcia, who in 1972 – along with Jim Keltner, Bill Kreutzman, Buddy Emmons and Richard Greene – contributes to the first Rowan Brothers LP. In 1980, the Italian Appaloosa label releases more studio sessions from this period under the title Livin' the Life. Lorin remembers one of their first gigs being a support act for the Grateful Dead on the closing night of Bill Graham's Fillmore West!
The brothers' next stop is Warner/Asylum. Peter Rowan comes on board again and as 'The Rowans' they record three LPs for Asylum: "The Rowans" (1975), "Sibling Rivalry" (1976) and "Jubilation" (1977). The first is a resounding artistic success, featuring first-class vocal harmonies in the Crosby-Stills-Nash/ Poco vein, the brothers' excellent original songs and layers of exquisite guitar arrangements that leave nothing to be desired. But the Rowans are under much pressure to complement their good looks with some musical pop punch. Thus they make the mistake of compromising their roots integrity with a fair amount of mainstream pop gloss, which leads to the end of their career as a 70's folk-pop trio soon. In 1994, however, they reunite with an album of acoustic roots music to make up for these misguided attempts at mainstream 70's pop. In the meantime, Peter Rowan has become one of the most brilliant bluegrass artists in the US.
In the 80's, younger brother Lorin Rowan keeps his affiliation with the Bay Area rock scene. His new rock/reggae outfit The Edge incorporates all the 'new wave' musical elements that are required to keep working. The band features hard rock guitar supremo Ozzie Ahlers and Jeff Myer on drums, formerly with Jesse Colin Young. The Edge pack local clubs and put out local releases on small indie labels. But there is not much happening on a larger scale.
Finally it's the 1990's and the real Lorin Rowan emerges with "My Father's Son", an album released on the tiny label, Black Dahlia Music. The record presents a bunch of new songs in the folk-rock vein with a cracking band that convinces on every possible level. Gone is the artificial sheen of the late Asylum records and there's no more balancing between pop and roots. From now on, it's roots music all the way for Lorin Rowan. His instrumental prowess and the powerfully autobiographic material are fuelled by a new mature kind of delivery that is continued on his new and first ever TAXIM release, REBEL SONS.
There's been some changes, though. With Marin County local hero and former Clover, Alex Call, Lorin Rowan presents a friend and collaborator who's a fine songwriter in his own right with a special talent for coming up with great hooks. Thus, Lorin Rowan's more introvert lyrical side is well-balanced by the ideas of another mind who knows about the importance of making a musical statement that lasts. But in the end it's Lorin Rowan who plays almost everything by himself on REBEL SONS: a small army of different guitars, mandolin, bass, piano, drums – sometimes with additional touches by good friends like Alex Call and Jeff Myer. One gets the feeling that here is a – still handsome, by the way – man who has finally reached the peak of his creative powers. With brilliant new interpretations of "My Father's Son", "Rebel Sons", "Circle of Friends" or the magical "Walls Of Avignon", Lorin Rowan is up with the best singer/ songwriters of the roots music genre. As a Westcoast artist from the 70s he still likes harmonies and pretty sounds, of course. But now he's expressing himself in a much more profound kind of way.
With REBEL SONS the real Lorin Rowan has finally arrived. A mature artist who doesn't compromise his artistic integrity anymore. Welcome back.
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