John Cowan

Sixty

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John Cowan has had a remarkable career, beginning with the various rock outfits he played with when he was starting out in Louisville, Kentucky through his time in the influential New Grass Revival band, the country-rock supergroup Sky Kings, a handful of solo albums, numerous sessions with Steve Earle, Béla Fleck, Alison Krauss, John Prine, and others, and he has been the off-and-on touring bass player for the Doobie Brothers for some time. Now turned 60 years old, Cowan is in a retrospective mood, and the aptly named Sixty finds him putting together one of his best solo efforts, helped by dozens of guest musicians from the various stopping points on his musical journey. Not a songwriter, Cowan shines as a vocalist, interpreting, re-imagining, and bringing new emotional depth to other folks' songs, and he does that here in grand style. The opener, "The Things I Haven't Done," written by Bruce Coughlan, is a country-rock gem, and it sets the stage for this well-played, well-recorded set, which was produced by the Doobie Brothers' John McFee. A cover of Marty Robbins' "Devil Woman" emerges as a crisp piece of Bakersfield country honky tonk, while Cowan's version of the Beatles' "Run for Your Life" is full of rustic grit and electric guitars that toughen it up. Other highlights include a jaunty "Sugar Babe," written by Jesse Colin Young, and an orchestrated, late-night wee-hours Dixieland take on "Miss the Mississippi (And You)," a song originally recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1932 that later became one of the great Doc Watson's many signature songs. The guest list on this album is huge, with Leon Russell, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell, Bernie Leadon, Sam Bush, Chris Hillman, Huey Lewis, Bonnie Bramlett, and many others lending a hand to this project as Cowan deftly and confidently touches all of the bases from his four-plus-decade career. Make no mistake, though, this is Cowan's album, for all the guests. Sixty belongs to Cowan's voice and vision, which are the silver thread and golden needle that hold it all together.

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