Peter Rowan

Best of the Sugar Hill Years

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Peter Rowan fills an important role in bluegrass evolution, serving as one of the key links between the older and newer styles that came to a head with the newgrass movement in the early to mid-'70s. Rowan was a member of the renowned West Coast bluegrass outfit Old & In the Way during that time, and wrote classic songs like "Panama Red" and "Midnight Moonlight." Rowan's talent lay in keeping a stylistic foot in each camp, delivering vocal flourishes as distinct as Bill Monroe's while veering toward a more progressive acoustic sound. Best of the Sugar Hill Years covers Rowan's career between 1982 and 1996, a productive period of time resulting in solo projects like 1990's Dust Bowl Children and 1996's Yonder, a collaboration with Jerry Douglas. The 15 songs included on this collection, most of them written by Rowan, are incredibly consistent. First, there's the quality of the material, highlighted by songs like "Rainmaker" and "Hiroshima Mon Amour," and next there's the acoustic base from which the arrangements are drawn. Rowan recorded a lot of material for Sugar Hill, and obviously a 15-song collection only touches on a small portion of his work with the label. Best of the Sugar Hill Years is nonetheless a good survey of Rowan's work from this time period, and a good general introduction to a pivotal newgrass performer.

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