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Lance Cowan - So Far, So Good 

Lantzapalooza Muzik

CPI/The Orchard

****1/2

 

I’ve known Lance Cowan for more than 30 years, mainly as a Nashville-based publicist, but also as a lesser-known songwriter, with cuts by David Mallett, Janis Ian and Joan Baez. Though he’s played the Bluebird Café and other songwriter haunts across Music City, he has not made writing or performing his main focus, concentrating instead on his PR work for such acts as Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lyle Lovett, Michael Martin Murphey and so many more. This is his debut album, though I should note that he’s the wrong side of 50, so there’s a steadiness (that life experience can bring) tangible throughout this succinct recording’s dozen tracks. It is inevitable that the record also possesses a lived-in quality. What wasn’t guaranteed was exactly to what degree. As it happens, the results are more unassumingly stunning than could have been imagined. The album was probably made as a passion project, intended to satisfy only the people involved in making it. Yet that confidence and sense of adventure gives us an album that takes a lot of risks and absolutely sticks the landing. Without that vital confidence and belief, Lance, perhaps, could never have stumbled upon such a gorgeous musical flight. Alongside his musical friends—a kind of Nashville Who’s Who—including in no particular order: Sam Bush, Pat Flynn, Dan Dugmore, Keith Sewell, Andrea Zonn, Dave Pomeroy, Pat McInerney, Julie Lee, Jim Hoke. Johnny Neel, he glides seamlessly through a beautiful collection of songs which deserve to soar high and be heard as widely as possible.

 

If there was ever an album born to ease one into a peaceful state in the evening, like a collection of lullabies for adults, it would be this one. The work here unfolds across its ornate running time with a kind of all-consuming subtlety, a brilliant awakening best echoed perhaps in the title song, a gentle, yet honest reflection on a life well-lived. This Heart Of Mine is a soul-crushing ballad from a brokenhearted man who has a heart full of passion for the woman walking away from a one-sided relationship. Many of us will be able to relate to the catchy A Place For Everything, a delightful ode to hoarders everywhere, with Dan Dugmore’s melodic Dobro floating in and around the irresistible chorus. With Sound Of My Home, a rhythmic train song, he delivers a clean and crisp sound that blends an acoustic country song with bluegrass instrumentation with Sam Bush’s mandolin very much to the fore. He steps once again out of his personal experience spheres to construct a heartbreak narrative in the story of Mr. Ben McGhee, an aging farmer, leaving his former life behind, to move into a nursing home with his trusty old Silvertone guitar. A glowing testament to Lance’s songwriting, musical and vocal brilliance, this song surges with sadness and hope in equal measure.

 

He invited the vastly underrated Julie Lee to handle the vocals on the exquisite break-up of The Letter, in which a long-distant romance just doesn’t work, especially when the participants crave different things in life. A delicate acoustic guitar arrangement coats For You, to bring comfort to anyone in need of a warm embrace, and a reminder to find wonder in the small things. Blue Highway cruises and drifts on a road trip through a life of its own, across a gently winding musical terrain. This is an album that demands to be listened to in silence, and it’s one you’ll find yourself coming back to time and time again. The production of the album is on point, as is the crack studio band. Lance Cowan’s emotional tenor voice and distinct songwriting style make this immediately familiar ... yet it feels like an entirely new and exciting chapter in his life and career.

 

www.lancecowanmusic.com

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