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John Cowan, also known as the Voice of Newgrass, has been singing his heart out for more than forty years now, and his soaring vocals have only improved with time. A true innovator, John applies his powerful pipes to genres from country, bluegrass, and gospel to soul, jazz, and rock-and-roll – often within the space of a single concert. His ability to move fluidly through multiple styles, and carry mesmerized audiences on the journey with him, has set him apart as one of the most loved and admired vocal artists of his generation, not just by fans and critics but among fellow musicians as well.
With his distinctive, rock-tinged tenor vocal and heart-thumping electric bass, John, along with fellow New Grass Revival bandmates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, and Curtis Burch, and later Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn, introduced a new generation of music fans to an explosive, experimental and ultimately, an eponymous brand of bluegrass. The “newgrass” sound spawned popular jam bands such as Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band and shaped the sensibilities of country megastars Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, the Zac Brown Band, and Darius Rucker.
After New Grass Revival disbanded in 1990, John went on to record a series of critically acclaimed solo albums, including Soul’d Out (Sugar Hill, 1986), the self-titled John Cowan (Sugar Hill, 2000), Always Take Me Back (Sugar Hill, 2002), New Tattoo (Pinecastle, 2006), 8,745 Feet, Live at Telluride (2005, re-released by E-1 Entertainment, 2009), Comfort & Joy (E-1 Entertainment, 2009), The Massenburg Sessions (E-1 Entertainment, 2010) and Sixty (Compass, 2014).
The John Cowan Band, in various incarnations that inevitably feature some of acoustic music’s finest players, has been a force to be reckoned with these fifteen years – and counting. John is a fixture and a favorite at major festivals like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and Wilkesboro, North Carolina’s “traditional-plus” MerleFest. He routinely sells out performing arts theaters and distinguished music clubs and listening rooms around the country. Stints in his band have helped launch Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) careers, Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), and Scott Vestal, among others.
John also is known for mixing it up; his creative collaborations range from his 2012 MerleFest performance alongside Darrell Scott and Pat Simmons to appearances with Nashville favorites The Long Players and Grooveyard. On his 2010 recording, The Massenburg Sessions, John joined forces with legendary producer George Massenburg (Little Feat, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, and others) to craft a collection that has the warm, intimate feel of a living room jam. It features duets with Maura O’Connell and Del McCoury.
In 2014, John recorded what many say is his most adventurous one yet, Sixty. Star packed with the likes of Bonnie Bramlett, Ray Benson, Sam Bush, Rodney Crowell, Chris Hillman, John Jorgenson, Alison Krauss, Bernie Leadon, Huey Lewis, Jim Messina, Leon Russell, John McFee, and others, this album set a new standard of excellence.
These days, John Cowan fans have to wait a little longer between shows and possibly travel a little farther to get to them. That’s because he’s working his regular gig traveling the world with the Doobies, laying down the low notes and singing the high ones as they perform hits such as “Black Water,” “China Grove,” “Taking it to the Streets,” and “Listen to the Music” as well as new songs that showcase the relevancy of this iconic classic rock band.
In 2020 John, along with his former New Grass Revival bandmates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Ebo Walker, Curtis Burch, Butch Robins, Bela Fleck, and Pat Flynn, was inducted into the prestigious Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. This honor solidifies their place as one of the most influential bands in bluegrass music history.
2021 finds John prepping for the recording of a new album, his first in more than 6 years, this time with an amazing pairing of world-class musicians that include Andrea Zonn, Darrell Scott, and Greg Morrow—produced by the legendary singer/songwriter Wendy Waldman. It also finds him guesting on a star-studded tribute album to one of his friends and musical heroes, the late Tony Rice. Both albums will be released in the Summer of 2021.