John Cowan - The Massenburg Sessions

E1 Music

This thirteentrack, fiftyminute CD takes it’s name from producer and engineer George Massenburg (Randy Newman, Little Feat, Linda Ronstadt) with whom Cowan resolved to cut this album “live, front to back, with no overdubs and no headphones.” Cowan further spices up the pot by inviting Mike Bub, Del, Rob, and Ronnie McCoury, Maura O’Connell, Darrell Scott, John Randall Stewart, and Reese Wynans to join members of his regular band from the past few years, namely Jeff Autry (guitar, vocals), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Wayne Benson (mandolin), Tony Wray (banjo), Noam Pikelny (banjo), and Shad Cobb (fiddle).

As one might expect, the star ends up being Cowan’s untamed voice that soars high on material as diverse as the traditional bluegrass of “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’” (with the McCourys), the progressive grass of “My Time In The Desert,” the folk balladry of “Lakes Of Ponchartrain” (with O’Connell), and the a cappella gospel workout “Jesus Gave Me Water.”

Massenburg’s presence, along with that of Cowan’s regular band, pays off, as each of these tracks of varying styles does indeed sound crisp, fresh, and urgent. (E1 Music, 22 Harbor Park Dr., Port Washington, NY 11050, AKH