Peter Rowan

High Lonesome Cowboy

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The four men gracing the cover of High Lonesome Cowboy look more like farmers than musicians. The black-and-white photography, desert surroundings, and the old truck the old-timers are leaning against evoke the West circa 1940 or so. This spare environment of the cover, in fact, mirrors the lean setting of the disc within. Don Edwards, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Norman Blake, and Billy and Bryn Bright join together to sing a fistful of Western favorites like "Goodbye Old Paint" and "The Old Chisholm Trail." The beauty of the entire project is its simplicity and non-pretentiousness. Edwards can be flamboyant vocalist, an Enrico Caruso of the plains. Here, however, he tones things down a bit, opting for a mellower approach to match Rowan's off-the-cuff style. Indeed, their voices work very well together and the unadorned style of the album sneaks up on the listener, much in the way a Norman and Nancy Blake album does. Lovely versions of "Midnight on the Stormy Deep" and "The Night Guard" give the impression of a couple of old cowhands sitting around the Coleman lantern as bright stars dot the summer sky. One might guess that there would be a lot of fancy picking with Rice and Blake on board, but this isn't the case. Rice only shows up on a few cuts, and Blake's work is always integrated into the tapestry of tumbleweeds and cactus blossoms. High Lonesome Cowboy is a low-key effort filled with simple music that runs deep. Fans of spare Western fare will want to round up a copy.

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