Peter Rowan & The Mosier Brothers 6.16.12
Words & Photos By Scott Shrader (Facebook.com/JScottShraderPhotography)
The momement Peter Rowan walked out onto The Handle-Bar's stage and began softly strumming "A Doc Watson Morning", I knew that this show was going to be special from the first note until the last. Joining Peter on this tour were The Mosier Brothers, along with a backing band that consisted of a drummer, bassits, and fiddler. The group called the 4 night run "Roots Branches Tour" and was hitting four different east coast cities. The Handle-Bar just happened to be the last stop on their run. With it being the last show, I knew we were in for a treat. Rowan finished up his tribute to the late great Doc Watson and invited the rest of the band out on stage. Peter introduced the band and began to get down to business.
They started off with "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and really got the crowd moving. From the looks of it The Mosier Brothers seemed to be honored to play on stage with a legend like Rowan. Jeff Mosier told a local magazine how he felt about playing with Rowan, “It's hard to explain to people. Fame is relative. To us, he's our Beatles,” said Mosier. “To me, he's the person I listened to when I was young and my mouth dropped. I wasn't a pop guy — I listened to bluegrass.” The band seemed to be showcasing a lot of Peter's original material and Jeff went on the even mentioned that they had picked around twenty songs from Rowan's catalog to play for the four show run. The chemistry on stage between The Mosier Brothers and Peter were visible within the first set of music. “We love playing with Peter. He's our hero,” Mosier said. “We have all of his records. He's one of the guys who has kept us feeling good about experimenting with bluegrass over the years."
Rowan played a handful of bluegrass songs including fan favorite, "Catfish Blues" before exiting the stage and allowing The Mosier Brothers to do their thing. I've had the pleasure of seeing The Mosier Brothers play before, so I knew what a treat we were in for. They don't call him "The Rev" Jeff Mosier for no reason. Jeff was the founding member of Blueground Undergrass, one of the earlier "jam grass" bands to hit the scene. Combining bluegrass instrumentation with the energy of rock and roll is what made Jeff the pioneer that he is today. Joining along side Jeff was his brother Johnny Mosier and former Col. Bruce Hampton bass player, Kris Dale. The band began proving to the audience that not all bluegrass music has to be acoustic. The crowd began to find themselves grooving to the sweet sounds of Jeff's electric banjo and being soothed by the sweet harmonies that the brothers produce. I found myself at times with my eyes closed trying to take in everything that the band was throwing out. A bluegrass rollercoaster is the best way to describe the jams that the brothers were creating.
After a half an hour of high energy jamgrass the band began to slow down for a quick second. Just long enough to let Peter come back out on stage to join in on the fun. Surprising everyone, including myself, Rowan was carrying an electric Gibson onto stage. The crowd began to realize how unique and special this momement was and took focused to see what was next. With the band still playing they began to slip into the tradional "Working on a Building" with much ease. Rowan wasted no time getting down with the Gibson in hand. Picking solos like he'd been playing in electric bands for years now. Peter put on a musical showcase that would cause anyone's jaw to drop straight to the ground. His style of playing was heavily blues influenced during the jams and solos. Wasting no time they jumped into the fan favorite "Panama Red." Putting a new twist on the song like I've never heard, it almost felt like a caribbean jig. The song had the crowd dancing and spinning to their hearts content. Rowan finger picked the song on electric and gave it the new sound that it deserved.
The night rolled on and the energy never left the room. The band eventually switched back to acoustic and closed off the night with a few sing-a-long's that left everyone with a smile on their face as they left the venue that night. "Midnight Moonlight" & "Walls of Time" were two that really stood out in my mind. I really hope to see more in the future from this line-up. Even Peter made a comment about the band in his interview earlier that week. “I'm excited because this band will be able to go all the way from bluegrass into the more expansive, electric sound that I did. It's really hard to find a band like that,” Rowan said. “I wanted to see what would happen if we did Bill Monroe materials both acoustically and electric. That intrigued me. There's a lot of blues in bluegrass. I'm real interested to see what we can find in there.” He eventually ended the interview by saying “It's a new thing for me, different than anything I've ever done,” Rowan said of the show. “It's a retrospective.”
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