The Rowans

Sibling Rivalry

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Although the Rowans -- Peter (guitar/mandolin/vocals), Lorin (guitar/vocals), and Chris (guitar/flute) -- hailed from Massachusetts, their rural leanings resurfaced on their third and arguably most accessible collection to date. The trio's strengths as musical chameleons are evident in both their writing and their eclectic performance styles. This is undoubtedly a double-edged sword, as it likewise made them difficult to adequately "market" to the typical mid-'70s pop music audience. Indeed, the term "progressive bluegrass" seems apt in capturing the modern directions that fuse the strict acoustic lineage and prowess of bluegrass with any number of disparate elements, such as jazz, pop, and country-rock. In addition to exploring those aural amalgamations, they venture into a rocksteady Rasta vibe on "Love Is" and even straight-ahead MOR during the slightly Philly soul-influenced "Ooh My Love." They don't stray far for very long, however, as "Tired Hands," "Mongolian Swamp/Kings Men," and the extended eight-plus minute "Joaquin Murrieta" venture closer to their conventional ancestry. The latter title is one of the more obvious examples of Peter Rowan's ability to augment a Spanish-flavored ballad with a sense of the decidedly American bluegrass tradition. The breezy vocals on "If I Only Could" scored the Rowans a little bit of chart action, conjuring up the laid-back slightly folkie sound of other West Coast acts such as the Eagles and America. The same can be said of the equally amiable "No Desanimes Amor (Don't Disappoint Love)," which also provides a suitable backdrop for their robust three-part harmonies. In 2004, Sibling Rivalry was issued on compact disc and paired with the follow-up, Jubilation (1977), onto a two-fer CD. As the LP had been out of print for over two decades, for many enthusiasts this release may well be their first opportunity to enjoy this classic recording. It is also recommended as the perfect starting point for the curious.

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