Tree on a Hill (1994) continues the trend of thoroughly listenable and ultimately enjoyable efforts from multi-instrumentalist and folk-bluegrass traditionalist Peter Rowan (guitar/banjo/vocals). His formidable skills are matched only by his prowess as a writer and interpreter. Rowan's background included a stint with the legendary Bill Monroe, contributing significantly to the authenticity that he brings to standards and original compositions alike. Joining in on the festivities is an all-star host of support led by brothers Chris Rowan (guitar/baritone vocals) and Lorin Rowan (guitar/mandolin/tenor vocals) -- both of whom are featured on Rowan's previous Sugarhill Records release of multi-cultural and Caribbean-inspired selections on Awake Me in the New World (1993). Also along for the ride are longtime Taj Mahal percussionist Kester Smith, renowned session bassist Viktor Krauss, the equally celebrated dobro player Sally Van Meter, ex-Asleep at the Wheel guitarist and distinguished dobro performer Cindy Cashdollar, and another Monroe alumni, fiddler Richard Greene. They cover an interesting spectrum of musical territory ranging from Peter Rowan's effective arrangements of the genre classics "Man of Constant Sorrow," "Fair and Tender Ladies," "Rye Whiskey," and "Lone Pilgrim." There are a few well-placed nods to singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt on "No Lonesome Tune" and the lilting "I'll Be There," which is co-credited to Van Zandt and siblings Chris and Peter. The brothers' vocals are particularly evident as they punctuate Peter's lead. A further example of their warm and embracing blend can be found on the Carter Family's "Darlin' Pal of Mine," and is additionally among album's best. Of the Rowan-penned numbers, the sacred ballad "Mary Magdalene" wins hands-down as one of the most poignant offerings to Tree on a Hill, as well as to his entire latter-day output.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer