John Cowan Band

New Tattoo – 2006 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Dr. Bobby Jones

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CDs by John Cowan Band

John Cowan's label debut features soulful vocals and world class musicianship from both his regular band mates and a number of guests. The cuts are varied in style, ranging from the NewGrass sounding "Six Red Birds (In a Joshua Tree)" to the more pop, but still very cool "Back To Your Arms."

As always, Cowan is a unique, instantly recognizable stylist who meshes rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, reggae and soul. The sound that emerges would be considered most closely identified with the genre of...well...Cowan.

Refusing to be confined to a single style can leave the artist with somewhat of an identity crisis, and no unifying theme emerges from the collection, except the utter insistence on eclecticism. That individuality is apparent in the first (and title) cut, which will be "in your face" for many traditional bluegrass fans. The defiance may have its origins in the final song, which will play a bit dark for the listener seeking a CD purely for its entertainment value. If one seeks to understand the artist, though, the recording might help one partially comprehend the enigmatic Cowan. Recommended for repeated listening.