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By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The ninth annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival is here. Festivities get underway tomorrow, Friday, June 6, and run through Sunday, June 8, on Reservoir Hill.
This year’s lineup is made up of 15 outstanding bands from all over the United States, including the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Tony Furtado Trio, The Steel Wheels, The Deadly Gentlemen, MilkDrive, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, SHEL, Grace Pettis and Pierce Pettis, Shook Twins, Finnders and Youngberg, The Railsplitters, Jon Stickley Trio and Moors and McCumber, and this week’s featured bands: Peter Rowan’s Twang an’ Groove (featuring Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo and the Claire Lynch Band.
Comprising Peter Rowan (electric guitar and vocals) guitarist Carter Arrington, Darrell Commander on piano, bassist Mike Morgan and drummer extraordinaire Jamie Oldaker, Twang n’ Groove is where rhythm and blues meets reggae at an all-day bluegrass pickin’ party.
At the helm is singer-songwriter Peter Rowan, a Grammy-award winner and six-time Grammy nominee whose career spans over five decades. From his early years playing under the tutelage of bluegrass veteran Bill Monroe to his time in Old and In the Way and breakout as a solo musician and band leader, Rowan has built a devoted, international fan base through a solid stream of records, collaborative projects and constant touring.
Rowan began his professional career in 1963 as the singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for the Bluegrass Boys, led by the founding father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe.
The late ’60s and early ’70s saw Rowan involved in a number of rock, folk and bluegrass projects, including Earth Opera, Sea Train, Muleskinner and the Rowans, where he played alongside brothers Chris and Lorin Rowan. After the Rowan Brothers disbanded, Rowan, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements and John Kahn formed a bluegrass band christened Old and In the Way.
Rowan subsequently embarked on a well-received solo career in the late ’70s, releasing critically acclaimed records such as “Dustbowl Children,” “Yonder” and two extraordinarily fine bluegrass albums, “The First Whippoorwill” and “Bluegrass Boy,” as well as “High Lonesome Cowboy,” a recording of traditional and old-time mountain music with Don Edwards and Norman Blake.
Rowan’s recent releases, “Quartet,” a recording with the phenomenal Tony Rice and “Legacy” with the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, coupled with a relentless touring schedule, have further endeared Peter Rowan to audiences around the world.
Peter Rowan’s Pagosa appearance will feature a very special treat as he is joined on stage by internationally known Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo.
Since her 1989 pilgrimage on foot from her beloved homeland of Tibet, Yungchen Lhamo has emerged as the world’s leading Tibetan vocalist. From the quays of Sydney, Australia, to the spotlight of New York’s Carnegie Hall, her haunting a cappella performances have enchanted audiences in more than 70 countries and garnered critical praise worldwide. Her music has been described as “brilliant” (The New Yorker), “sublime” (Rolling Stone), and “spine-tingling” (The Times, London); she has been called “angel-voiced” (Newsweek) and praised for her “pristine, gliding vocal lines” (The New York Times).
Lhamo casts a regal presence on stage, described by one journalist as “more like a head of state than a musician on her first trip to America” (Rhythms Music).
Lhamo has collaborated with luminaries such as Natalie Merchant on her platinum-selling Ophelia, as well as with Philip Glass, Annie Lennox, Michael Stipe, Billy Corgan and Sheryl Crow. Her songs have been featured on compilation albums including “Prayer Cycle” and “Lilith Fair Live,” on the sound track to the Hollywood film “Seven Years in Tibet,” and in a handful of documentaries.
She has performed for spiritual and political leaders across the globe in support of Tibetan organizations and international aid groups such as Amnesty International.
Through her arresting music, which explores Buddhist themes of spiritual pilgrimage, soul searching and a delight in the natural environment, she hopes to share Tibet’s rich cultural heritage and the innate grace and goodness of the Tibetan people with the rest of the world.
Peter Rowan’s Twang an’ Groove featuring Yungchen Lhamo will close the festival with a 6 p.m. set on Sunday, June 8.
Long recognized and praised as a creative force in acoustic music, Claire Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. She is the reigning Female Vocalist of the Year for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and a 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship. Her career has been decorated with many other accolades, including two Grammy nominations and three International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist awards in 1997, 2010 and 2013.
Blazing her own trail in the mid ’70s when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the ’80s and ’90s into “one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands on the circuit.” She formed her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005 and has since consistently been a top pick of prestigious publications, critics and audiences across the U.S. and beyond.
Dolly Parton credits Lynch with “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.”
Lynch’s harmonies have graced the recordings of many stellar musicians. Equally gifted as a songwriter, her songs have been recorded by The Seldom Scene, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Cherryholmes, The Whites and others.
The current Claire Lynch Band is a powerful juggernaut, a quartet that has the innate ability to perfectly interpret the beauty, subtlety, and genre-defying sophistication of Claire’s music. The Claire Lynch Band features like-minded musicians blending tradition and innovation — two-time IBMA-winning bassist-clawhammer banjo player-dancer-percussionist Mark Schatz; soulful mandolinist-guitarist Matt Wingate; young string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18 won an unprecedented triple win at the Winfield, Kan. National Flatpicking Championship.
Claire Lynch and her group will close the show on Saturday night with a 7 p.m. set on the main stage.
Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part by funding from Colorado Creative Industries, a state agency whose mission is “to promote, support and expand the creative industries to drive Colorado’s economy, grow jobs and enhance our quality of life.”
Tickets and information are available online at the website, www.folkwest.com, or by calling 731-5582. Children 12 and under receive free admission to the festival when accompanied by an adult.
(Peter Rowan and Yungchen Lhamo provided the bio information found in this story.)