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      This debut collection by a behind-the-scenes musical entity   is finally stepping up front with the heavyweights. The skill that’s shown almost immediately is the craftsmanship in the storytelling in many of the polished highly melodic country tunes that never rely on hokum, twang, or retro asides. The tales are genuine & the opening numbers “So Far, So Good,” & “This Heart of Mine,” are eloquent & appealing.    Lance isn’t Willie Nelson, Townes van Zandt, or Garth Brooks but what he is combines the durable narrative skills of the late John Prine, the imagination of Guy Clark & the light indulgences of a Dan Fogelberg. There’s nothing fiery or foot-stomping here — but there’s homespun tales, short stories loaded with compelling characterizations &

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good music, period. Cowan avoids the country cliches & folky saccharine. The songs sound like they were carefully constructed & arranged to penetrate the heart, the mind & with luck the soul.

    12 nuggets are So Far, So Good (Drops Feb. 23/Lantzapalooza Muzik-CPI/The Orchard/42:00) with individual songs produced by Jason Stelluto, Scott Paschall, Pat Flynn (guitar), Dan Dugmore (pedal steel, piano & guitar) with Mark Elliott (guitar/vocals), Glenn Middleworth & Robert Reynolds.

    Cowan (vocals/guitar) projects his warm youthful tenor with well-articulated vocals that fit the topics he’s chosen to focus on – all woven into his array of material. He has good phrasing throughout each set & his diversification is charming & well-supported by his musicians. He has songwriting qualities that encompass names like Mickey Newbury with dips into Murray McLauchlan & sings with the tonality at times of Jackson Browne (without the wordiness of his lyrics).

    There’s a polite spotlight on another lead vocalist Julie Lee of her performance of “The Letter” a Lance Cowan & Terry Clayton penned song. Ms. Lee has an Alison Krauss-luxuriance that’s a nice break in the pacing of the album. It’s like fruit salad & brandy before the main course.

    Music isn’t something you can hold – it possesses a listener for its brief moments. It becomes part of an experience that’s felt privately or shared. It both stimulates the soul & returns through the conscience. It may even hypnotize your mind – that’s what comes back to you years later when you suddenly hear it again. Lance’s songs have that memorable aroma, the drift & the sophistication of a mature countrified perception that’s never processed. Good listening is to be had.


Highlights – “So Far, So Good,” “This Heart of Mine,” “Lost & Found,” “The Letter,” “Blue Highway” & “Ben McGhee.”


Musicians – Sam Bush (mandolin), Pat McInerney (drums), Jay Turner & Dave Pomeroy (bass), Jim Hoke (accordion) & Andrea Zonn (fiddle).


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