John Cowan — Hold On To A Dream: A Newgrass Odyssey 

Widely-celebrated bluegrass singer and bassist John Cowan contributed as much as any of his generation to bringing the music from past to present. When he replaced original bassist Ebo Walker in the groundbreaking ’70s ensemble, New Grass Revival, he helped jumpstart that band’s forward trajectory while setting the standard for any number of so-called newgrass groups that followed in their wake. Although New Grass Revival was decidedly ahead of their time, it didn’t stop Cowan from pursuing his passion when their time was finished, combining his professional interest in contemporary string music with the emerging opportunities for crossing over into country, and creating a sound that effectively mesmerized the masses.

There could be no greater proof of that premise than that he currently takes the role of singer and bassist in The Doobie Brothers, helping them further pursue their popularity while also assuring his own promise.

Now he can also include published author with the release of Hold To A Dream – A New Grass Odyssey, written by Cowan with Jimmy Schwartz. Available now from Backbeat Books, or directly from Cowan, the 292 page hardcover book includes John’s thoughts on his notable music career, along with insightful interviews with luminaries in and outside of bluegrass.

“Being in a band has meant everything to me,” Cowan writes in the book. “It may sound paradoxical to say this, but the experience is rarely about the audience initially. It’s about coming together as one, to play our best for the enjoyment of people who paid to see us.”

Given his contributions to so many esteemed outfits, that point becomes all too obvious.

Consequently, Cowan is in a clear position to talk about the trajectory that’s transpired over the past 50 years, both from his own personal perspective and from the viewpoints of those esteemed artists with whom he has worked — among them, Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferson, Béla Fleck, Loretta Lynn, Jim Messina, Bernie Leadon, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), and John Carter Cash.

He’s got a natural leg-up, of course, but the real impetus for the book lies in the fact that his radio show on the legendary country station WSM in Nashville gave him the opportunity to interview many of the musicians he admired  — those aforementioned artists, as well as such staples as Chris Hillman, Rodney Crowell, Chicago’s Robert Lamm, and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues — and then to subsequently transcribe those conversations into specific chapters in the book. It’s hardly rote; Cowan is a skilled interviewer who manages to take the role of both fan and authority, while contributing to the discussions with his own insights and opinions.

As a result, the reader is given opportunity to be a fly on the wall, able to observe Cowan and company interacting in ways that reflect their friendship, mutual admiration, and most of all, their reflections on the music they’ve made over the course of their careers.

It’s a terrific read, and whether one is wholly familiar with Cowan’s accomplishments, it’s easy to appreciate his commitment to the cause.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.