Telluride Live

John Cowan

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Telluride Live Review

by William Ruhlmann

Singer/bassist John Cowan seems to have sifted through live recordings from several occasions when he played in Telluride, CO, for this in-concert collection. At the very least, the credits to 16 different backup musicians (among them three drummers) would suggest that. And so would the variety of instruments they play and the various styles. Best remembered for his tenure in New Grass Revival, Cowan has demonstrated an eclectic approach during his subsequent solo career, and he does so here, too. To be sure, there's plenty of bluegrass revival music, including the lively instrumental "Road to Silverton." But by the time that tune turns up in the set, Cowan has plowed through the bluesy swamp rock opener "Mississippi Delta Time," the country/pop/rock of "High Above the Powerlines" (which sounds like a lost track from Bruce Hornsby & the Range), the pop/rock of "Only the Night" (co-written by Bill Lloyd), and the country-rock of "Gotta Get Go" (which could pass for Poco). Later, Cowan gives Jesse Winchester's "Let's Make a Baby King" a funky bassline and encores with a saxophone-led cover of "Dark as a Dungeon," complete with a new verse he penned about South African miners, before concluding with a burst of rock & roll, "Ain't Necessarily Love." Over all the furious playing, which draws an enthusiastic crowd reaction, he sings in a powerful, flexible tenor that calls to mind Edgar Winter, and like Winter, he exults in holding notes and wailing. Previous Cowan albums have sometimes seemed over-the-top in performance terms, but here, before an audience hyperventilating in that thin air 8,745 feet above sea level, it might be more accurate to say that he raises the roof.

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