Featured Album | Peter Rowan – Calling You From My Mountain | Rebel Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | 17.06.22
For over sixty years Peter Rowan has been a key player in the world of American roots music, a career that has seen the singer take on everything from Bluegrass, Newgrass and Country Rock to Jazz, Hawaiian, Tejano and in some instances, Reggae. These various styles have been enthusiastically explored, either as a solo artist, as part of his family band The Rowans or with other collaborations, notably with Tony Rice, Flaco Jiménez, Jerry Douglas and as a member of the rock band Seatrain back in the early 1970s. Throughout the years though, it’s been Rowan’s highly distinctive voice that has remained at the helm of each venture, a voice that is very much among those in Americana’s A list. On the eve of his 80th birthday, Rowan sounds as good as ever, in fact not very far removed from his heyday over forty years ago, those ‘hey, hey, heys’ on the opener, Woody Guthrie’s “New York Town”, being very much reminiscent of earlier times. Calling You From My Mountain began life as an extension of the Hank Williams character Luke the Drifter, but other aspects of the singer’s vivid curiosity came along to change this direction, bringing in Tibetan musical influences, inspired by Rowan’s friendship with Yungchen Lhamo. The ever vibrant Molly Tuttle appears on the title song “From My Mountain (Calling You)”, as does Lindsay Lou, which has been released as a single. Billy Strings, Shawn Camp and Mark Howard also add spice to Rowan’s already spicey multi-generational band, which features Chris Henry on mandolin, Max Wareham on banjo, Julian Pinelli on fiddle and Eric Thorin on acoustic bass. Calling You From My Mountain stands alongside Rowan’s best remembered albums, Medicine Trail, Dust Bowl Children, Walls of Time and his 1978 eponymous debut.
Flick the Dust Off | Joe Egan – Out of Nowhere | Ariola AARL5021 | 1979
After playing in a series of bands, the singer songwriter Joe Egan teamed up with former school pal Gerry Rafferty to form Stealers Wheel, the band going on to have one or two hit records in the early 1970s, notably “Stuck in the Middle With You”, which Egan co-wrote with Rafferty. After Stealers Wheel folded in the mid-Seventies, the two musicians were contractually obliged not to release any recordings for three years, but eventually Egan was able to resume his recording career by releasing a couple of solo albums, this being the first of them and which featured the minor hit single “Back on the Road”. After Egan’s second album failed to impress, he left the music industry to work in publishing. Like Rafferty, Egan is a much missed presence on the music scene.
Singled Out | The Doors – Riders on the Storm |Elektra K12021 | 1971
“Riders on the Storm” is a significant single in that it was the last song recorded by the original four members of The Doors and also the last song to be released in Jim Morrison’s lifetime. According to guitarist Robby Krieger, the song was inspired by the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend” but with a darker edge. In the wake of the 1969 Manson murders, Los Angeles was still pretty much living in fear, though it has been suggested that ‘killer on the road’ reference in the song refers in fact to the earlier spree murderer Billy Cook, who killed six people, including a young family, while hitchhiking to California in the 1950s. Despite the song’s iconic status and instantly recognisable keyboard flurries, the song was only ever performed live by the band twice, Morrison leaving the planet shortly afterwards.
Fifty Years Ago | Free – Free at Last | Island ILPS 9192 | June 1972
Like the contemporary bands of the time, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Who for example, Free stuck to the essential rock band format of a significantly reliable drummer, an excellent bassist, a guitar player extraordinaire and a frontman whose highly distinctive voice would keep the band’s name at the top of the billboard. Having four such members in a band really seemed enough at the time and everything seemed possible. Free at Last is the band’s fifth studio album recorded between January and March in 1972 and released in May that year. Having broken up in April 1971, over musical differences, mainly between singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser, the band reformed in January 1972 and released this eagerly anticipated album, most fans believing the previous live album to be their last. Despite each song being written by individual members of the band, they are all credited jointly to the band as Fraser / Rodgers / Kossoff / Kirke. The album also features the band’s tenth single release “Little Bit of Love”, which almost bothered the UK top ten.