How Hank Williams Planted the Seed for Peter Rowan’s Next Album
It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about roots music without Peter Rowan’s name popping up. In a career spanning more than 60 years, he’s played with Bill Monroe, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Guy Clark, Donna the Buffalo, and countless others, and he’s a familiar name on festival lineups big and small. His Blue Grass Boy background still shines through, but he’s equally comfortable fronting bands playing reggae, Tejano music, and more.
His next album, Calling You From My Mountain, continues his free-spirited journey of creativity. It was originally intended as a tribute to the album Hank Williams Sings Luke the Drifter, but the pandemic delayed recording plans and gave the idea room to grow. Much of the album retains the Hank Williams-inspired foundation and the wandering soul of Williams’ Luke the Drifter character, but incorporates Rowan’s own worldview and experiences.
“From My Mountain (Calling You)” celebrates Rowan’s friendship with Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo and the mountain landscapes central to both Appalachian and Tibetan folk traditions. Woody Guthrie’s “New York Town” gets a bluegrass treatment, handed down to Rowan by the man who taught the song to him: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. “Light at the End of the World” has a bluegrass gospel sound but draws from Rowan’s visit to the Hiroshima Memorial while touring in Japan in the 1970s.
Calling You From My Mountain, coming June 24 on Rebel Records, features guest artists including Molly Tuttle, Billy Strings, Lindsay Lou, and Shawn Camp, and his backing band — Chris Henry on mandolin, Max Wareham on banjo, Julian Pinelli on fiddle, and Eric Thorin on bass — likewise represents a new generation of musicians.
“I’ve got a great young band, it’s fabulous,” Rowan notes in a press release announcing the album. “They’re bursting with ideas. They’re in their years of inspiration. They’re really quick learners and their ears and wide open because this generation is built on everything we did, dare I say, all those years ago.”
“The Song That Made Hank Williams Dance” is the first single from Calling You From My Mountain, and features Shawn Camp:
Rowan is returning to the road after the pandemic-forced break, which, according to the press release, he spent “looking out over the California coastal landscape and canyons around him just playing and trying out old favorite songs.” In the next few weeks he’ll perform with his Free Mexican Airforce band featuring Los Texmaniacs at the Old Settler’s Music Festival and in a bluegrass configuration at MerleFest and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.