Album Review of
Calling You from My Mountain

Written by Joe Ross
July 23, 2022 - 10:50am EDT
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While this album has reached #1 on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Country Album Chart and is very solid “Americana,” Peter Rowan’s Calling You From My Mountain on Rebel Records actually brings us a very solid bluegrass quintet, along with a few contributions from special guests Shawn Camp, Mark Howard, Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle and Lindsay Lou. During six decade professional career, Peter Rowan has worked creatively within the boundaries of many rootsy genres, but this project clearly has a fairly straight-forward bluegrass focus with an apparent intention to also feature and pass the torch, if you will, to the next generations.

The musicians pay tribute to Bill Monroe with a rendition of “Frog on the Lilly Pad,” and Tex Logan’s “Come Along Jody” is a grooving instrumental affectionately named for Tex’s daughter. Rowan also chose material from Woody Guthrie (“New York Town”), A.P. Carter (“Little Joe”) and Lightnin’ Hopkins (“Penitentiary Blues”). For traditionalists, there’s a little something for everyone on Calling You From My Mountain. Hearing and emulating Lightnin’ Hopkins as a kid, Peter Rowan acknowledges the importance of the blues in deeper rooted music as he developed his own style of singing bluegrass. That track is clearly offered as an indication of how Rowan has always interpreted his bluegrass with a connection to the blues.

Certainly, no Peter Rowan album would be complete without a complement of multiple contemporary songs written by his own pen too. By tracks 5-7, we start to hear more of his own Americana material with “The Song That Made Hank Williams Dance,” “A Winning Hand” and “From My Mountain (Calling You).”  Shawn Camp sings a verse on the former. The latter was inspired by Rowan’s long-time friendship with Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo, and the song/prayer for healing showcases the spirit of mountain music shared between Appalachian and Tibetan cultures as it calls people to expand beyond their isolated worlds, or mountain tops, to shake off loneliness and despair.

Rowan has a defining voice for his time, and his signature sound draws from many influences whether he’s vocalizing a ballad or lively, up-tempo offering. Combine that with Rowan’s fabulous band of extraordinary young players who bring a lot of creative ideas to the table - Chris Henry (mandolin), Max Wareham (banjo), Julian Pinelli (fiddle) and Eric Thorin (acoustic bass), as well as his guests. Henry does a nice job vocalizing a high tenor harmony in Rowan’s 3/4-time “Veil of Deja Blue” is a particularly heart-tugging tale of a gambling man who falls under the spell of the queen of hearts. “Every town I ramble round, I’m always missing you, shadows falling on my heart, in shades of deja blue, in shades of deja blue.”

After playing a festival in Winona, Wis., and without much time playing together as a band, Rowan and his compadres went to a Minnesota studio to record everything.  Rowan admits that it kind of jump-started his whole creative process in terms of recording. Rowan has also spoken very highly of the unique, exuberant contributions from “the same lineage” of Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings. Molly plays and sings on “From My Mountain (Calling You)” and “The Red, the White, and the Blue.” Billy plays with precocious spontaneity on “A Winning Hand” and “Freedom Trilogy.” Rowan is probably now looked up to as a father figure by many of the younger up-and-coming players. The warm groove and good vibes on Calling You From My Mountain indicate that he’s embraced the role. On a quest “to cultivate the good for all,” Peter Rowan knows that music can be healing, and the music on his latest album brings that curative hope and restorative optimism to others. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)