Steve at Telluride #14: JoCo’s Wild
John Cowan Band
There’s been a lot of instrumentalism so far this morning, which has been pick-tacular, but I was ready for some Johnny C. Not that his band—which has over the years been a sort of bluegrass all-stars finishing school—didn’t peel off plenty of killer solos. But one of the downsides of the jamgrass trend that peaked around ’03 was that those organ and electric mandolin solos went on for eons, shortchanging the numbers of actual songs in the sets. That was never really my bag because, as my musical passions go, I want, above all, to be sung to. And John Cowan is one of my favorite singers of all time. No one (except maybe Adam Lambert) can touch him. Other singers would crawl through broken glass to borrow John Cowan’s larynx for fifteen minutes. And he manipulates his diamond-clean skyrocket of a voice with enormous control, timing, and taste. He deserves to be ten times as famous as he is.
Today, John was in exultant voice and was joined onstage at various times by three special guests–Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, and fiddler Shad Cobb’s little Beagle, Maggie, who performed a baying solo after John asked the crowd to howl and held the mic down to Maggie. My all-timer moment for this set: a sterling version of Led Zep’s “Going to California,” one of my faves, and John hit those Robert Plant notes like there’s nothing to it. I hope we haven’t seen the last of Johnny C this weekend.