The Travelin’ McCourys do not stand still. They are on the road—and online—entertaining audiences with live shows that include some of the best musicians and singers from all genres. It’s always different, always exciting, and always great music.
No other band today has the same credentials for playing traditional and progressive music. As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue their father’s work—a lifelong dedication to the power of bluegrass music to bring joy into people’s lives. And with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, the ensemble is loved and respected by the bluegrass faithful. But the band is now combining their sound with others to make something fresh and rejuvenating.
They can push forward so far because their roots are so deep. The band has a confidence that only comes with having paid their dues with twenty years on the bluegrass road. Other groups and new fans hear this immediately—the tight rhythm, the soulful material, and the confidence in taking bluegrass from the safety of the shore into uncharted waters.
Ronnie says, “We like to go in and play traditional bluegrass music the way we do it with Dad, but we also like to be able to step into situations where we can really stretch out. If we need to plug in, we’ll plug in. We’re open to anything.”
It’s that attitude, backed up by talent, that marks great musicians, traditional or progressive. The Travelin’ McCourys are twenty-first century musical pilgrims and adventurers. They’re onto something new, just like Bill Monroe was in the 1940s, but now we can see and hear that adventure live or online. Go see them, or—if you hold still long enough—they’ll come to you.
Peter Rowan was one of the major cult bluegrass artists of the ’80s, winning a devoted, international fan base through his independent records and constant touring. A skilled singer/songwriter, Rowan also yodeled, and played numerous stringed instruments and the saxophone. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts; his parents and many of his relatives were musicians, and it seemed only natural that Rowan too would become one. When he was a teenager, he frequently hung out at the Hillbilly Ranch, where he heard such bluegrass and old-time bands as the Lilly Brothers. He also enjoyed listening to the blues.
Rowan formed the Tex-Mex band the Cupids while he was in high school. The group became a popular New England attraction and independently released a single. After college, he decided to become a professional musician, and in 1963 joined the Cambridge-based Mother Bay State Entertainers as a mandolin player and singer, appearing on their LP The String Band Project. In 1964, after performing with Jim Rooney and Bill Keith, Rowan became a rhythm guitarist and lead singer with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. He remained with them through 1967, leaving to join mandolinist David Grisman in the folk-rock band Earth Opera. The group recorded a couple of albums and toured (frequently opening for the Doors) until the early ’70s. One of their albums, The Great Eagle Tragedy (1969) produced a minor hit single, “Home to You.”
While with Monroe and Earth Opera, Rowan began to write and co-write songs, some of which were used in both bands. After leaving Earth Opera, he became a part of Seatrain, a rock-fusion unit whose records were produced by George Martin. Rowan left the band in 1972 to form the Rowan Brothers with siblings Chris and Lorin, and recorded one eponymous album. After the group disbanded, Rowan then recorded Old & In The Way with Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements and John Kahn. In 1974, Rowan, Grisman, Clarence White and Richard Greene formed Muleskinner, a bluegrass band. Muleskinner released one album and then disbanded. He then reunited the Rowan Brothers, who this time played together until the early ’80s. Meanwhile, Rowan also began playing rock and bluegrass with Mexican Airforce, which featured accordion player Flaco Jimenez. In the mid- ’80s, he and Jiminez again reteamed to record Flaco Jiminez and Peter Rowan: Live Rockin’ Tex-Mex. He founded the Nashville-based Wild Stallions in 1983, and throughout the ’80s and ’90s continued to work with a variety of musicians and tour as a solo act.
-Sandra Brennan, Pollstar