Voice, Banjo, Fiddle, Bansitar
Rowan is a multi-instrumentalist from Derbyshire, England. Drawing inspiration from English folk music and also european musical influences, Rowan is now well known for her distinctive fiddle playing, voice and 5-string banjo. Both a performer and educator of folk music from a young age, Rowan has also studied traditional music in a number of ways, including spending a year in Sweden where the music she became steeped in continues to influence her work.
Rowan tours regularly as part of BBC Folk Award nominated trio Lady Maisery, who have released two critically acclaimed albums of intelligently re-worked traditional material, championing inventive vocal harmony, innovative instrumentation and arrangement. Debut album ‘Weave and Spin’ was declared an ‘album of the week’ in The Independent and most recent album ‘Mayday’ was hailed by Songlines magazine as “a powerful, enthralling work” as well as gaining a 5 star review from The Financial Times.
Alongside Lady Maisery, Rowan also tours in UK and France with fiddle-singing sister-duo The Rheingans Sisters, as part of Nancy Kerr and the Sweet Visitor Band and as a songwriter and composer in solo projects. She is also part of various collaborative projects such as ‘Bright Phoebus Sings Tom Waits’ and ‘Rest’, a secular requiem by award winning contemporary classical composer Emily Hall. Rowan is also in high demand as a session musician, having recently featured on albums by Maz O’ Connor, Niel McSweeney and Brooks Williams. Rowan also works as a musician for dance performance and theatre, most recently with Teatro Dondolo shadow theatre productions in Norway and for a special production of Macbeth at Shakespeares Globe, London. A keen music educator, Rowan teaches lessons and workshops and has worked for arts education organisations including EFDSS, Living Tradition Summer Schools, Scandimoot and Phoenix Folk.
Album Review: Glad Gold Hearts
Here’s an unexpected little gem. Rowan Rheingans – she of Lady Maisery – teams up with sister Anna on a positively forthright and bold collection of songs and tunes recorded live by producer Andy Bell in such a fashion that they appear to sitting next to you on the sofa playing and singing. The scrapes of their fiddles are right in your face and the soul of the music almost palpable.
At times they sound like a couple of old-time country musicians sitting on a porch in the Deep South, though their terms of reference are far broader than that as they mine tunes from Norway and Sweden, where they both studied folk music; one of the most intriguing tracks is the closer Reiselått Frå Nes, a slightly weird traditional Hardangar fiddle tune which evolves with arresting mystery into a ghostly chorus. Bookended with an opening version of the old warhorse Sorry The Day I Was Married, inventively set to raucous Estonian rhythms, it’s indicative of exploring minds and an obvious passion for playing.
This capacity to inject genuine freshness into well-worn themes and ideas is ably demonstrated by their mesmerising banjo arrangement of the Incredible String Band classic October Song (on this issue’s fRoots 44 compilation) while the old-timey influence is underlined by a lively treatment of The Factory Girl, neatly intertwined with the lovely tune Shenandoah Falls. Their willingness to revisit folk music history – not just for material but for its integral spirit – is one of the facets that makes the album so appealing, as proven by their thoughtful rejuvenation of Bread And Roses, inextricably linked with the women textile workers’ strike of Massachussetts in 1912.
fRoots Magazine, May 2013