Local John Lowell releases ‘She’s Leaving Cheyenne’ and performs in Bozeman

Enterprise Staff
Thursday, November 11, 2021
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JOHN LOWELL Photos courtesy of Joanne Gardner Lowell

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Singer/songwriter/guitarist John Lowell’s new recording, “She’s Leaving Cheyenne,” presents 12 Western-themed songs — which is nothing new for this accomplished musician.

“I’ve lived in the West since I was three months old,” said Lowell, from his Livingston home, in a recent news release on the recording. “Like I say on the album package — I have a love affair with the American West — its history, its topography, its culture and its people.”

Lowell is known locally as the producer of the Livingston Hoot and the Paradise Ramble.

Lowell has spent years as a wellrespected touring and recording musician in the Bluegrass and Americana genres. No matter what it’s called, he’s been writing songs about people he’s met or read about and places he’s been for decades, the release said. His trio (the Growling Old Men) has appeared on “Prairie Home Companion” and his instrumental music has been featured in episodic TV shows for several years.

He’ll be performing songs from the record on Saturday, Nov. 13 on KGLT with Cathy Ebelke, and will be performing Nov. 17 on The Local Musicians’ Spotlight — a weekly show, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday evenings. It will be broadcast live on KGVM, 95.9 FM, which also streams. There’s a link to the stream at kgvm.org. The show is also available via livestream video at https://www.youtube.com/c/LokkenProductions.

John Lowell is best known lately for his songwriting, earning the Grand Prize in the 2021 Hazel Dickens Songwriting Contest.

“It’s the first time I ever entered a songwriting contest, guess I’ll do more of that,” Lowell joked in the release.

He was selected by the International Bluegrass Music Association for the second time to participate in their Songwriter’s Showcase in Raleigh, NC and was slated to teach at the first-ever Antlers & Acorns Songwriting Festival in Boone, NC until COVID-19 reared its ugly head again and canceled the September festival, the release said.

Lowell’s been playing music all over the West, and the rest of the country, Canada, the UK and Europe for decades as part of Kane’s River, the Growling Old Men and his own John Lowell Band.

“I’ve been writing and singing Western and Cowboy songs for many years but never really considered making a recording of them until the pandemic was upon us and I needed a way to feed my creative side,” added Lowell in the release. “Some of these songs you’ll recognize, and some will be new to you. Four are original, two are classics, and there are some songs I’ve taken a new direction. I’ve included a favorite Dave Stamey song and found some that just seemed to fit.”

Lowell continued, “If I ever had a hit, I guess it would be ‘Sarah Hogan,’ and for this record I asked my old friend Randy Rieman if he would give it a go as a cowboy poetry recitation. He did a fine job on it.”

When it was time to record during a pandemic, Lowell worked with musicians all over the world, including Joey Miskulin, on “Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie.” He also includes former bandmates Ben Winship, Julie Elkins, David Thompson, Jason Thomas, Tom Murphy, Kevin Fabozzi, Phil Round, Ted Wells and Ben Somers and friends Billy Conway, Natalie Padilla, Chris Coole and Ivan Rosenberg. His wife, Joanne Gardner Lowell, sings backup vocals on two tracks.

In January of 2019, several friends urged John to take some of his Western songs to Elko for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, but the performance slots were full. John and Joanne took a shot at the Open Mic on the advice of Randy Rieman and won a spot on the Main Stage on Saturday night, where Waddie Mitchell cheered from the sidelines. “Why don’t I know you?” Waddie asked. “I need to know about these songs.”

That was all the encouragement Lowell needed to return home and start collecting material, according tot he release. When the pandemic struck, he spent weeks in the studio on the project, writing several new songs — often based in history and research about the men and women of the West. His biographical song about a madam in Jerome, Arizona (“Belgian Jenny”) and her shocking death comes from hearing a reference to her in a friend’s song.

The title track (and first single) is one of Lowell’s favorite cuts on the recording.

“I was trying not to write a cowboy song, and I did. When the hook came into my head, I thought, ‘Well, here we go.’ I figured it earned a spot on the record,” he said in the release.

The beautiful cover art is a painting by John’s friend Clyde Aspevig, a giant in landscape art of the West.

“Clyde and I looked at several options — one better than the next,” added Lowell. “This painting, with that amazing lightning bolt — just felt right for this. I am honored he let me feature it.”

The album was quietly released in October of 2021, and Lowell returned last week from a threeweek tour in Germany. A short Montana tour in November was canceled due to Covid concerns.

“I can’t wait to perform these songs. I dedicate this record to anyone who has ever watched the moon come up over a mountain in the American West, while listening to a coyote sing,” he stated.

John Lowell’s CDs are available at Cactus Records, or on his website at www.johnlowell.com.

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