New Tattoo

New Tattoo

4.6 3
by John Cowan
At the close of this beautifully realized album, John Cowan reveals a dark secret concerning childhood sexual abuse. The brittle piano ballad "Drown" is at once a moment of painful confession, spiritual despair, and triumphant survival as Cowan, his voice crying out, vows never to let another child suffer. It's an unsettling, provocative coda that lingers on in memory


At the close of this beautifully realized album, John Cowan reveals a dark secret concerning childhood sexual abuse. The brittle piano ballad "Drown" is at once a moment of painful confession, spiritual despair, and triumphant survival as Cowan, his voice crying out, vows never to let another child suffer. It's an unsettling, provocative coda that lingers on in memory -- not so much for its explicit rendering of horror but for his restraint when a fiery, unforgiving howl seems more than appropriate. Throughout New Tattoo, though, Cowan sings with a passion tempered by experience but unfettered in its expressiveness. His band is strictly aces -- banjo player Luke Pikelny and fiddlers/mandolinists Wayne Benson and Luke Bulla especially stand out -- and Cowan, on bass, delivers the goods again and again vocally. On the driving bluegrass of "Carla's Got a New Tattoo," the bluesy yin-yang of "Misery & Happiness," the laid-back country folk groove and melodic pop grandeur of the breakup song "Hurting Sure," and the restless shuffle of "Working in a New Mine," Cowan finds the heart of the matter and roots it out, belting determined phrases when the band revs it up or letting his warm, personable tenor caress the reflective passages of love songs just so, in order to make the ache or the exultation near palpable; the delicate determination he brings to the heart-tugging song of devotion "Back to Your Arms" is the stuff of masterful vocalizing. New Tattoo is here for the duration.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Ronnie D. Lankford
While John Cowan gained his rep in New Grass Revival during the '70s and '80s, his vocal style has always owed more to Robert Plant than Bill Monroe. That makes him much more expressive than the average bluegrass singer, and along with Tim O'Brien, one of the genre's most exciting vocalists. As a soloist, however, his career has never quite taken off. Perhaps that's because albums like 2000's John Cowan and 2002's Always Take Me Back proved too bombastic for even the progressive bluegrass crowd and still too traditionally tinged for the rock crowd. With 2006's New Tattoo, the John Cowan Band have taken a step back, first jumping to a more conservative label (Pinecastle) and secondly sticking closer to acoustic instruments. The results place Cowan closer to New Grass Revival material than he's been since the band broke up, and will be a welcome change for old fans. On the downside, the material -- most of it written by other writers -- lacks the spunk and edge that made John Cowan and Always Take Me Back intense (though perhaps over-produced). Even on a jewel like Darrell and Wayne Scott's "With a Memory Like Mine," Cowan's version lacks emotional depth when compared to Darrell Scott's take on 2000's Real Time with Tim O'Brien. New Tattoo nonetheless has much to recommend it, with excellent vocals and instrumental work, and will receive a warm welcome by longtime Cowan fans.

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Cowan   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Bass,Electric Guitar,Vocals,Acoustic Bass,6-string bass,Group Member
Giles Reaves   Percussion,Guest Appearance
Mickey Raphael   Harmonica,Bass Harmonica,Guest Appearance
Luke Bulla   Fiddle,Mandolin,Vocals,Background Vocals,Group Member
Patty Griffin   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Jay Joyce   Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Guest Appearance
Darrell Scott   Piano,Guest Appearance
Wayne Benson   Mandolin,Vocals,Background Vocals,Group Member
Jeff Autry   Bouzouki,Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,Bazouki,Group Member
Shad Cobb   Fiddle,Vocals,Background Vocals,Group Member
Bryn Bright   Cello,Guest Appearance
Noam Pikelny   Banjo

Technical Credits

Giles Reaves   Engineer
Paul Buchanan   Composer
John Cowan   Composer
Andy Evans   Executive Producer
Jay Joyce   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Colin Linden   Composer
Tom Riggs   Executive Producer
Darrell Scott   Composer
Mark Simos   Composer
Eddie Lynn Snodderly   Composer
Jim Weider   Composer
Bob Lucas   Composer
Robbie Fulks   Composer
Keith Sewell   Composer
Jason Hall   Engineer
Michael Kelsh   Composer

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New Tattoo 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great album but more importantly John Cowan shows again and again that he is the best singer in all genres bar none. Go to his live shows and you will be blown away!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
"New Tattoo", the John Cowan Band's latest release, exposes the growing maturity of acoustic music's greatest voice. At the same time, this ever-tightening group of musicians makes a case for receiving group of the year honors, if not now, then when? While John's own "Drown" portrays the spirit and substance of a devastating personal experience, it is, respectfully, a counterpoint to the damned fine songs that lead to it. Add this to JC's credentials..he knows how to put a great team together! "Carla's Got A Cool Tattoo" is the perfect combination of pop punch and bluegrass spirit that John has always been known for. In my book, "Hurting Sure" is the year's prettiest song, followed closely by "Misery & Happiness". The killer list continues with "In Bristol Town", "Joshua Tree" and "Back To Your Arms". A great next step for John would be to stretch as a songwriter. "New Tattoo" is the real deal. Buy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Playing Time – 46:47 -- Who They Are: Genre-bending innovators and adventurists What They Do: Progressive newgrass full of vocal and instrumental pyrotechnics Little Known Facts: Some of Cowan’s early rock and blues bands included Everyday People, The Sky Kings, Duckbutter and Grooveyard. The Songs: “Carla's Got A New Tattoo” opens the set with barn-burning instrumental work and inspired vocal spunk. The soulful "Misery & Happiness," a lamentation on the bittersweet experience of finding love and losing it, features gorgeous harmony vocals from Patty Griffin. "Working In The New Mine" harkens back to old school bluegrass, with a driving tempo, stellar picking, charged modulation, and acrobatic vocal harmonies. A melodic "Back To Your Arms" and Mark Simos’ "Hurting Sure" are modern country masterpieces that would sound right at home on country radio. “In Bristol Town” is a ballad with some old-time Appalachian character. The 6-minute closing track, "Drown," is the most emotional and controversial. It’s a disturbing and detailed disclosure about child molestation. Based on personal experience as a seven-year-old survivor, John felt it was a tragic story that needed to be told. Cowan collaborated with Darrell Scott on “Drown” and “Red Birds (In A Joshua Tree).” Darrel and his father (Wayne) penned “With A Memory Like Mine,” a sad song of a son returning frm war in a flag-draped casket. The Musicians: Besides Cow on lead vocals and bass, the band’s current lineup is Jeff Autry (guitar, bouzouki), Wayne Benson, (mandolin), Shad Cobb (fiddle), Noam Pikelny (banjo), and Luke Bulla (fiddle, mandolin). All but Pikelny contribute harmony vocals. Of Special Note: Six guests who are “special” offer up vocals (Patty Griffin), piano (Darrell Scott), cello (Bryn Bright), bass harmonica (Mickey Raphael), percussion (Giles Reaves), and “sonic onslaught” (Jay Joyce). Any Recommendations: The studio effects are a little overstated in a few places. Sound effects, echo, reverb and looping sounds have their place, and producer Jay Joyce could’ve used them a bit more sparingly to create certain intimate moods and soul-stirring settings. Their Bumpersticker Might Say: “Johnny C” for Secretary of Defense! The Bottomline Is: Explosive Ebullience with a capital “E.” Reviewed by: Joe Ross (staff writer, Bluegrass Now)