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Friday, April 15, 2005; Page WE08


The best known of the Rowan brothers is Peter, the singer-songwriter-guitarist who has been a bandmate of such folks as Bill Monroe, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. But Peter's two younger siblings, Chris and Lorin, made their debut as the Rowan Brothers for Columbia Records in 1972 with Grisman as producer. Peter was so impressed that he joined Chris and Lorin, and the trio, known as the Rowans, released three albums for Asylum Records in the mid-'70s. The sweet, fraternal harmonies owed an obvious debt to the Everly Brothers, but the bohemian songwriting and famous guest musicians highlighted the Rowans' ties to the California country-rock movement.

The Rowans didn't sell a lot of records, and Peter moved on to other projects while Chris and Lorin faded from national attention. But they kept writing and singing, and they recently released the two-CD, 38-track package, "Now & Then." The "Now" disc offers 17 newly recorded tracks, with Grisman, Phil Lesh and Richard Greene lending a hand on the bluegrass-rock arrangements. But Chris and Lorin dominate the proceedings with their feathery harmonies and their equally pleasant, equally lightweight songwriting.

The "Then" disc features 17 audio tracks and four video tracks from the mid-'70s that had never been released in the United States. Peter, Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann and Jim Keltner show up on various tracks, and there's an unmistakable psychedelic tinge to these country songs. That means there are more bad notes but also more ambitious gambles than on the recent tracks.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Tuesday at Jammin' Java. • To hear a free Sound Bite from the Rowan Brothers, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

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