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Don’t leave every note in the dressing room

Cassie Pence

BOND – In the five years that bluegrass legends Peter Rowan and Tony Rice have played together, they’ve never rehearsed.”We really rely on the energy coming together right at the moment of performing the song on stage,” Rowan said. “The thing about music is it can lose its spontaneity when you try to make it too perfect. We just try and keep a little breathing room.” Rowan is a singer-songwriter who gained notoriety in the 1980s through his independent records and constant touring. Rice is known as the greatest innovator in acoustic flatpicked guitar since Clarence White. When performing together, Rowan plays the structure of the song, the singing, the chords and the rhythm. Rice adds the color.”What Tony can do that I’ve never heard anyone else do is actually play complimentary guitar to the vocal with as much innovation as a solo,” Rowan said. “It makes my job easy. There is a sense of effortless and spontaneity.”

The two are on tour in promotion of their first album together, “You Were There For Me.” They stop at State Bridge Lodge in Bond Sunday at 5 p.m. All the songs on the album are written by Rowan.”I try and write material that is challenging for the person that brings out what that person can do the best,” Rowan said. “The tunes that I’ve written on this album are tunes that bring out qualities in Tony’s playing that are new to the listener.”The album, along with the songs that make it into the duo’s live repertoire, is bluegrass, defined by the modern scope of bluegrass. But the tunes don’t include a banjo or a fiddle.”Bluegrass music gives you such a strong foundation in structure, rhythm and timing that if you can really learn it, and you have the mind to, you can explore other areas with all that in tact,” Rowan said. “There are vast arrays of exploration that can happen within the larger bluegrass context.”

One of Rowan’s favorite things to play is straight-ahead bluegrass, which is the most unique American acoustic art forms, he said. But given his talents, he does like to explore other genres.On Rowan’s CD “Reggaebilly,” Rowan traveled to Jamaica to record at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios with some of the island’s best known studio artists: Earl Chinna Smith (guitar), Squidley Cole (drums), Robbie Lyn (keyboards) and Chris Livingston (bass). Rowan brought with him original songs to have them played island style.”I really like connecting with the musicians that have as much regard for the roots as their style as we have for the bluegrass style. Reggae musicians are extremely joyous about the roots of their music,” Rowan said. “These guys know the subtleties within the reggae structure. And that makes all the difference in the world.”For a long time, Rowan said, the younger generation playing bluegreass was looked upon as black sheep wondering from the fold because some of the old timers, like Bill Monroe, felt they didn’t respect the tradition enough because they didn’t just stay within it. When Rowan and Rice play, however, they never really stray from their format.

“This is probably the most natural acoustic-guitar based sound that I’ve ever done,” Rowan said.Rowan and Rice will be joined by Billy Bright on mandolin and Bryn Bright on double bass and harmony vocals Sunday at 5 p.m. at State Bridge Lodge in Bond.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com


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