John Cowan and the John Cowan Band (#206)

The versatile singer brings his blend of “newgrass” and R&B to the Jubilee stage.

A veteran of neo-country experimental groups New Grass Revival and the Sky Kings, John Cowan now leads his own ensemble, the John Cowan Band, along the cutting-edge, genre-defying musical path that has marked his illustrious career.

Though Cowan, a former Louisvillian, has been on the music scene for more than 25 years—in a career that helped forge a new genre of bluegrass music—he feels that the establishment of his own band has given him a new beginning and a sense of artistic freedom.

“It’s kind of funny,” Cowan told Lexington Herald-Leader music critic Walter Tunis. “As my own person, as a songwriter, I’m just starting.

“Trying to work in country music was really constrictive. Trying to fit through that little narrow gate that’s called country radio is really hard for a person like myself. So for me to suddenly have the freedom to play anything and not have to fit any format [is] wonderful.”

Cowan’s blazing Jubilee performance, taped at the 2000 Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, KY, features songs from his self-titled 2000 album in a musical melange that should please fans of country, funk, bluegrass, gospel, and jazz alike. Cowan released his second solo album, Always Take Me Back, in April 2002. Its tunes reflect tales of his family relationships and Kentucky upbringing, while the stylistic combination of bluegrass and prog rock leaves listeners tapping their feet.