John Cowan Band live recording this weekend

If it seems like we haven’t heard much from John Cowan of late, it’s because we haven’t.

In October of ’10, John accepted the full-time bass position with The Doobie Brothers, a job he had held previously for more than 10 years in the 1970s-’80s. This meant the dissolution of The John Cowan Band, and disappointment to their many fans across the US.

John’s commitment to the Doobies prevents him from accepting solo shows much in advance, but it does happen – and one of them is this Saturday at Music at the Mission in West Milford, NJ. Not only is Cowan getting the old band together for the occasion, the show will be recorded for a possible release.

And not just recorded – recorded by the celebrated Record Plante Remote crew, who have tracked live projects for artists from Sam Bush to The Rolling Stones, and Billy Joel to Bill Cosby.

With John will be Jeff Autry on guitar, Shadd Cobb on fiddle and John Frazier on mandolin.

In advance of the show, Cowan gave an interview to Kim Harnett of Among the topics they discussed is the always divisive WIBA (What Is Bluegrass Anyway).

Q: John, how would you describe yourself as a musician? I’ve heard you say you don’t do “bluegrass,” it’s “newgrass.” Can you explain the difference?

A: Newgrass is a genre of music that was started in the mid-60s by people like The Country Gentlemen and The Osborne Brothers. Basically what they did was they plugged their instruments, which was kind of unheard of; they had electric bass.

Traditional bluegrass had always been all acoustic, no electricity, and used an acoustic upright bass. The band I was involved in for so long, the New Grass Revival, we actually took it a step further. We grew up in the 60s, so we were incorporating a lot of the sounds and music that was a part of who we were at that time as young musicians. We basically took songs by Jerry Lee Lewis and Leon Russell in the early days, and Bob Dylan — people like that — and played them in the context of our band.

If the recording goes well, look for a digital release sometime in 2012, with the possibility of LPs and manufactured CDs to follow. We’ll report what we find out about all that.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.