Peter Rowan has always been something of a musical itinerant. Over the years he's moved swiftly from one style to another, sampling at will everything from bluegrass and country & western to Irish ballads and Mexican Conjunto melodies. Along the way he's played with some very well-known musicians (Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia), written at least one country-rock standard ("Panama Red") and made more than a few friends.
One of those friends, Dobro player Mike Auldridge, showed up at the Birchmere last night to accompany Rowan, along with guitarist Greg Douglass, bassist Tony Garnier and mandolinist Akira Ohsuka. The opening set was typically eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable.
Rowan has a sharp ear for traditional and ethnic forms, and he was just as convincing singing a Hank Williams blues as he was chanting the lovely "Land of the Navajo" in an American Indian cadence. Occasionally some of the exchanges between the musicians didn't dovetail as nicely as perhaps they would have liked, but most of the songs, particularly the Mexican pieces, were graced by lovely and stylistically apt solos. Best of all, Rowan handled the vocals with the reassuring confidence of someone who's been making music for a long, long time. Just put your feet up and let the music flow, he seemed to be saying.