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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Rowan, ice make pretty good team

Neighborhood Church, Pasadena, Cal., Feb. 18, 1999

By Dan MacIntosh

PASADENA, CA - With his suit, tie and wire-rimmed glasses, Tony Rice - armed only with an acoustic - didn't look much like a guitar hero. But whenever this flat-picking phenom took a solo, the nearly full house erupted in a spontaneous roar.

In fact, Rice, co-billed with singer/songwriter/guitarist/mandolinist Peter Rowan, hardly even had to speak, since a throat condition kept his few words to muttered growl.

That left Rowan in the position of MC, a role he filled well.

The concert was divided into two parts: the first half featured Rowan on guitar, Rice on guitar (of course) and Mark Shatz at the stand-up bass. This setting gave Rowan a chance to highlight his singer/songwriter skills, as he-in his words-took the audience on an adventure through the American Southwest. These songs took on mainly a historical nature, and peeked with a recently composed romantic ballad called "Angel Island" about a California gold minor's love for a Chinese immigrant.

For the second half, Rowan brought out his mandolin, as the rest of the line-up remained the same, except for the addition of Michael Witcher on dobro. Bluegrass then became this unit's style of choice.

The influence of Bill Monroe was the primary focus for this final set, as Rowan sang songs influenced by the father of bluegrass ("Let the Harvest go to Seed") and co-written with the great man ("Walls of Time"), as he also reminisced about his own tour of duty as a member of Monroe's band.

But no matter how funny or touching Rowan's anecdotes were, though, they never rivaled the impact of the tall pony-tailed guitarist standing next to him. Nevertheless, all one-sided audience reactions aside, these two still make a pretty good team.