One cannot overstate Peter Rowan’s immense influence on American music. Still writing, recording and performing at age 74, his resume is without equal. In 1965 he became one of Bill Monroe’s “Bluegrass Boys”. After leaving Monroe in 1967 he formed Earth Opera with the great David Grisman, a few years later he joined the progressive bluegrass/country band Seatrain. Then in the early ’70s he was a part of Muleskinner, with Byrd’s guitarist Clarence White, and in 1973 he and Grisman formed Old and in the Way which featured Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia on banjo. Along the way he wrote staples of the genre such as “Panama Red” and “Midnight Moonlight”. His musical curiosity has led him to explore reggae with Crucial Reggae, roots music with Twang an’ Groove, and Eastern philosophy on his 2014 release Dharma Blues.
Rowan lives part of the year in Hawaii, and of course he was captivated by the sounds around him, and My Aloha! is the delightful result. Recorded with local musicians, and using vintage instruments, the album sounds exactly what you would expect from the dean of American roots/acoustic music. Rowan wrote the 11 songs contained here, and from the opener “My Blue Hula Girl” to the charming “Lotus Flower”, Rowan’s country background meshes with the Pacific ambiance to create yet another aspect of Rowan’s vast musical genius. Hawaiian music is no stranger to country music – as the liner notes show, the “Singing Brakeman”, Jimmie Rodgers sold ukuleles at his shows, and scores of country artists have adapted the rhythm of the islands to their own ends, but perhaps none with such passion as Rowan has done on My Aloha!.
Peter Rowan is one of the few artists that whose entire output is both equally vital – and good fun. From the “high lonesome” sound of bluegrass with Bill Monroe, to the outlaw country of “Panama Red” up to My Aloha! one can only imagine where his musical taste will lead. I for one can’t wait.