John Cowan has ably lent his talents in New Grass Revival, and has bouncing back and forth to Louisville several times in the early and mid 70s before the band relocated to Nashville. Cowan took a break from a visit to the doctor’s office to talk to LEO. Cowan plays this Thursday night the Rudyard Kipling (422 W. Oak St., 636-1311). —Mat Herron
LEO: What was it a good move for the band to relocate to Nashville permanently?
John Cowan: It was a good thing, we had been making our records there since ’75. The music community here was and continues to thrive. There’s always been a really healthy music scene outside of country music here. It’s always been a good place to live.
LEO: What is the state of the bluegrass genre today?
JC: Bluegrass is in a particularly healthy state right now. I’ve been a part of it for almost 33 years. It’s enjoyed a success that it never has up till now. Myself and much younger fans are interested in pushing the envelope.
There’s a whole bunch of really great young bands right now. Some of them are traditionalist bands, then you have people like Yonder Mountain String Band (from Colorado).
LEO: What distinguishes bluegrass from other musical genres?
JC: One of the things that’s really curious, is that it doesn’t have drums. The mandolin is really the snare drum in a bluegrass band. The bass is the kick drum on a drum set. Great bluegrass sounds like you have a great set of drums, but you don’t have a drummer. It’s a true art form in every sense of the word. Most of the people who do this for a living are averaging, $20,000-$40,000 a year, so no one’s getting rich doing it. You can’t make a living in this music and suck. The people who do this have sat down and learned how to play.