Music: Grass Roots

Peter Rowan performs in San Rafael

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On his new album ‘Carter Stanley’s Eyes,’ singer/songwriter Peter Rowan offers mournful melodies and traditional instrumentation that echo bluegrass’ origins. Photo by Amanda Rowan.

Before he was a bluegrass legend, singer/songwriter Peter Rowan was a young man playing in a band with the iconic Bill Monroe in the 1960s. One day, Monroe asked Rowan to drive him to Clinch Mountain in Virginia to meet a friend. That experience would stay with Rowan for life.

“He didn’t explain what we were going to do,” Rowan says. “We got to the top of a small rise, a cleared field. And there was Carter Stanley sitting on a log.”

With his brother Ralph, Carter Stanley was as influential to bluegrass as Monroe was, playing as the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys for 20 years. In that brief encounter, Rowan says he got from Stanley an endorsement as a bluegrass boy. “It was totally memorable,” Rowan says. Now, more than 50 years later, Rowan revisits that meeting with the new album, Carter Stanley’s Eyes, out on April 20.

“Bluegrass was a musical innovation that is still developing today and most of the people that have been able to, have gone beyond bluegrass, people like Bela Fleck,” Rowan says. “But, you know, it’s good to come back to the roots. That’s why I wanted to make the record.”

This week, Rowan shows off a different side of his musical personality when he performs in Marin with his outfit Twang & Groove, a collaboration with legendary pedal steel player Bobby Black, mandolin payer Sharon Gilchrist, bassist Paul Knight and drummer Ken Owen.

“They’re all people I love to play with,” Rowan says. “We’re just trying to put together a good concert of songs, some we don’t normally do.”

Twang & Groove, Saturday, April 7, Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd., San Rafael; 8pm; $25-$35; 415/444-8000.

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