Peter Rowan lasted three years under the exacting tutelage of bluegrass deity Bill Monroe before falling under the spell of the left-coast counterculture, for which bluegrass was often precisely the opposite of what Monroe intended. For Rowan (and accomplices such as Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and closest ally Tony Rice), bluegrass could be a soundtrack of protest, self-expression, genre-bending and pot-smoking. Since the late '70s, his solo records have contained influential fusions of string-band ensembles and singer-songwriter tricks, even when he dips into cowboy and Native American culture (or re-fashions himself in Monroe's image, as on 1996's Bluegrass Boy). Rowan's a heavyweight guitarist and underrated mandolinist, but his songs which are exquisitely tuneful yet unfettered by convention or propriety remain his greatest legacy.
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