JOHN LOWELL

JOHN LOWELLJOHN LOWELL
THIS LONG STRETCH OF GRAVEL

Beartooth Records
BR0010

   Known to many as one half of the Growling Old Men with Ben Winship, Lowell is a guitarist and songwriter from Montana, where more good music happens than most folks probably know about. The first sounds on this project include Joe Newberry’s old-time banjo and harmony on “Fergus County Jail,” a minor-key ballad about bad choices and the resulting consequences.

This entire project is not bluegrass, but it will appeal to many who like their music with slightly broader lines of demarcation. Missy Raines is all over this project and her fine taste permeates it like a well-seasoned dish. Becky Buller shows up on fiddle and harmony vocals on the beautiful “The Day Dreamer’s Waltz.” The trend continues with guests Greg Cahill, Jeremy Garrett, Chris Jones, and John Reischman popping up all over the dozen songs presented here. Throughout is Lowell’s voice, a bit folksy but pleasant to hear. And his guitar playing is a rich fluid stream upon which the multitude of guests float. Raines’ bass is the other constant here, as is the level of excellence of the 12 strong original songs. Gathering a wide range of musicians to make it work is an interesting concept. Claire Lynch and Ron Block are among those who show up, but all of these folks never overshadow Lowell and his songs. They expertly add to each song, lending something of themselves, enriching the project as a whole.

Chris Coole adds his distinctive clawhammer banjo and harmonies to “Velvet Western Sky”/“Black-Eyed Susie.” Joe Walsh adds some fine mandolin to this track as well. Darol Anger’s fiddle peppers “New Phase Of The Moon.” The trio of guitar, bass, and fiddle remind us that’s all you need to really jam. Each song is a gem and the talented guests are matched to the songs that make the most of their talents. This is a minor masterpiece in its conception and execution. Some tracks are outright bluegrass, others are just outrageously good music and stories. (www.johnlowell.com)RCB

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