John Cowan Band performs Oct. 19

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Article Published: Oct. 3, 2013 | Modified: Oct. 20, 2013
John Cowan Band performs Oct. 19

John Cowan will perform Oct. 19 at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

The John Cowan Band will take the stage at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s J.E. Broyhill Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

John Cowan, also known as the Voice of Newgrass, has been singing his heart out for 35 years, applying his powerful pipes to multiple genres, from country, bluegrass and gospel to soul, jazz and rock ’n’ — often within the space of a single concert.

His ability to move fluidly through multiple styles and carry mesmerized audiences on the journey with him has set him apart as one of the most loved and admired vocal artists of his generation, not just by fans and critics, but among fellow musicians, as well.

Cowan got his musical start in Louisville, Ky., where he played in various rock outfits, like Everyday People and Louisville Sound Department, in the early 1970s. But his rise to fame began in earnest in 1974, when he auditioned to play bass for the then up-and-coming New Grass Revival. The audition went well, and Cowan was offered the gig. It wasn’t until he’d accepted the job that the shy 22-year-old casually mentioned, “By the way, I can sing, too.”

With his distinctive, rock-tinged tenor vocal and electric bass, Cowan, along with fellow New Grass Revival band mates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Curtis Burch and later Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn, introduced a new generation of music fans to an explosive, experimental and, ultimately, eponymous brand of bluegrass. In later years, the “Newgrass” sound spawned popular jam bands, such as Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band, in addition to shaping the sensibilities of country megastars Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, the Zac Brown Band and Darius Rucker.

After New Grass Revival disbanded in 1990, Cowan went on to record a series of critically acclaimed solo albums and has also has been in high demand as a session musician. Cowan boasts vocal and/or bass credits on some 120 recordings, including albums by Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Rosanne Cash, Hootie and the Blowfish, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Darius Rucker, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr. and Wynonna, just to name a few.

In the early 1990s, Cowan’s alliance with Pat Simmons gained him a slot as bassist for The Doobie Brothers from 1992 through 1995, as well as a songwriting credit for “Can’t Stand to Lose” on the Doobies’ 2000 release, “Sibling Rivalry.” Not content to remain a sideman, however, Cowan left the band to follow his creative muse in pursuit of a solo career that, at the dawn of the 21st century, found him circling back to his acoustic Newgrass roots.

“What we did back in the New Grass Revival days was unique,” he said. “Our vision was to take acoustic music somewhere new. What I’ve done with the John Cowan Band is try to recapture the magic of that ground-breaking experimentation and take it to the next level.”

The John Cowan Band, in various incarnations that inevitably feature some of acoustic music’s most celebrated players, has been a force to be reckoned with these 15 years — and counting. Cowan is a fixture and a favorite at major festivals like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and MerleFest in Wilkesboro, and he routinely sells out performing arts theaters and distinguished music clubs and listening rooms around the country.

Cowan’s appearance in Lenoir is set for Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children and CCC&TI students. For more information, as well as tickets, call the civic center box office at (828) 726-2407 or visit

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