Dave Rowe Trio
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Dave Rowe Trio

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A warm. affectionate ramble through 11 mostly traditional Irish songs very nicely played by Dave and cohorts on fiddle, mandolin and bass. Dave's special thanks confirm his love of Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers. Rod MacDonald's "Sailor's Prayer" sung a cappella is exceptional. Rowe's own [sic] "John Cook" is an excellent epic sea tale. A truly loving performance aptly dedicated to Dave's father, Schooner Fare's Tom rowe, who recently passed on. —MT - Sing Out!


“Big Shoes is a courageous project, and in large part, it succeeds.Taking the music he heard as a youth, from Tom [Rowe] and his well-known Schooner Fare, and the Makems [Tommy Makem/Makem Brothers], and updating it to fit his own style, Dave Rowe’s music stands strongly on its own. With this latest release, Big Shoes he has re-arranged some of the great Irish and American classics with a currentday American flair, but always remaining faithful to the stylistic influence of his mentors.“

“The classic Makem [sic] tune ‘Wild Rover’ is performed here with the typical full, clipped voicing of the folk bands of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, giving the song a raucous rollicking feel.Yet more fun.”

“In Pete St.John’s ‘Athenry,’ Rowe’s voice is at its best, plaintive and hauntingly rich, and Howe’s mandolin weaves beautifully around the melody.Together they create the musical frame for this sad lament....Exquisitely executed.” - Face Magazine


Yes, I understand that both the Adam Flaherty Noise Explosion and Paranoid Social Club are releasing new discs this week. This week’s "Beat Report" will deal with neither. I’ll get to Flaherty in the September FACE Magazine (out next week), and if you want to know about the Paranoid release, check out my review of Axis III & I from June 4, 2004, and my review of Axis II from August 8, 2002. All of the songs off their self-titled national debut with ON Entertainment are on those albums. Hey, they’re good songs, great even. I just don’t have anything else to say about them.

Luckily, this week also sees CD releases from two fine traditional/folk/bluegrass types: Dave Rowe, now playing exclusively with his Dave Rowe Trio, and Matt Shipman, who’s got a solo disc out this week and can be found playing with the Mill City Ramblers and Splittin’ Hairs, among various other side projects and groups. While rock bands like Paranoid and As Fast As might be garnering us a national reputation for great radio rock, let’s not forget where Portland and Portsmouth really kill it: Americana. In fact, I consider it a personal affront that no part of No Depression’s series of 10th anniversary concerts, celebrating their 10 years of ties to the alt-country and Americana scene, will be happening here in the Northeast.

Jeezum crow! Austin can kiss our ass, know what I’m saying?

Not that many of our area musicians would want to be standing within 10 feet of me if I said that out loud in a crowded place. Nope, we’ve got a humble bunch here, which is why fans of these virtuoso musicians gravitate so loyally to them. Right here in the liner notes to the Dave Rowe Trio’s new Rolling Home, we’ve got a sweet tribute to Dave’s dad Tom, who died last year, and his old band, Schooner Fare, a folk trio that few who care about folk music didn’t know well. "It is from years of watching from the front row that I learned my craft:" writes Rowe the younger, "how to work a crowd, how to sing from the heart, how to gracefully zip up my fly in front of five thousand people."

The latter I can’t vouch for, but as for singing from the heart and wowing a crowd, I can certainly bear witness. The singing, especially, takes center stage on this new collection of traditionals and originals penned both by Rowe and his fiddler Edward Howe. Dave’s voice is straight out of a movie, or off a 50-year-old record, pure and always on key. And then there are the harmonies — always so totally on that their voices (Rowe and Howe are joined by electric bassist Kevin O’Reilly) magnify into a virtual crowd, like they’ve just imported the Irish tenors and all their friends and family for a community singalong.

The Cape Breton vibe and Rowe’s super-crisp delivery might lull you initially into thinking there’s some hokum factor here, but don’t fall into that trap. "We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar (Like True New Foundlanders)" features those stellar harmonies, sure, but did you catch those lyrics? "I’m bound to have Dolly, or Bitty, or Molly/ As soon as I’m able to plunk the cash down." Not as quaint as you thought, eh? Who knew drinking and whoring could sound this good?

Well, the "Drunken Sailor," for one. Ed Howe just absolutely blows this traditional song up, with a terrific fiddle lead to start, followed by a just-plain-awesome, make-other-fiddlers-want-to-quit lead around the 4:30 mark. Coupled with O’Reilly’s funky electric bass, this should be on a Jethro Tull album or something. "Shave his belly with a rusty razor"? "Throw him on the rack with the captain’s daughter"? "Put him in a long boat till he’s sober"? By this tune’s end, after the breathless hand drum gets you all worked up, you’ll be ready to execute all three remedies.

If you need something to calm you down, pop in Matt Shipman’s Highway Shoes. Shipman, who penned everything here, is supported by a cast that should be familiar to any local America fan — Jon Nolan, Joyce Andersen, John Ross, and members of High Range all make their presences felt with excellent musicianship. And while Shipman certainly mines the traditional in his songwriting, he’s also willing to go in the other direction entirely. The first two songs (and others elsewhere) even have — gasp! — drums. What kind of uppity mando/guitar player does he think he is?!

Well, he’s not quite the potential indie-rock phenom that Iron & Wine has become by doing some similar stuff, but he does just enough interesting things that Shipman’s appeal will certainly extend further than the ultra-traditional fans that Dave Rowe wins over so easily. "Better Find Somebody (Winter’s Moving In)" is stripped right down, just a couple of guitars and a narcotic invitation.

Here Shipman basically just speaks the vocals, his most effective delivery on the album, and dishes out gems like: "When winter comes, the warmth of the stove/ and the lighting of candles, helps the romance grow/ It gets dark at three, don’t go out much/ stay home and make supper - Portland Phoenix


By Rebecca Russell

On stage, the Dave Rowe Trio is as laid back and comfortable as the audience. They wear Hawaiian shirts, khaki shorts, and two of the three have kicked off their flip flops and are keeping time with bare feet. That seems somewhat contradictory when looking at Dave Rowe’s latest solo album, Big Shoes.

The title, of course, has nothing to do with his footwear. Instead, it is a tribute to his late father and musical mentor, Tom Rowe. "Dave sees this as his legacy," said band manager and booking agent Kathy Schultz. "His dad’s whole life was music. Dave feels like this is what he is supposed to do."

Based on the younger Rowe’s resume, it must indeed be. "I never had a real job, except at a seafood restaurant," Rowe said, laughter in his eyes. "I did that to save up enough scratch for my first bass guitar, and then I quit." As a musician, he turned professional at the young age of 15, which is pretty amazing considering he didn’t pick up an instrument until he was 12. And that was the tuba.

He also had formal lessons on the piano and the pipe organ. "Keyboard instruments are such a fantastic starting point for music that one you understand how they work, you can pretty much pick up anything and figure it out from there," Rowe explained. "That’s what I did with the guitar. I first picked it up when I was 19, and almost immediately I understood it. My dad taught me the basic finger-picking pattern soon thereafter."

Dave got his start playing with a country band that doubled as an Irish ensemble. When asked how that was possible, he said, "Just add a drummer." The group would be booked to play at festivals on two different stages, and rarely did the audience catch on that they were one and the same group.

From there he went on to form Rowe by Rowe with his dad. Playing with his dad was the "coolest thing in the world," Rowe said, a touch of sadness behind his smile. Soon after, Denny Breau joined the group and they changed the name to Turkey Hollow, the name of the town Tom Rowe lived in at the time. Breau is an old family friend, being a high school classmate of Tom Rowe’s. "They had their first band together, with my mom, actually," Rowe said. It was Breau who introduced him to the Dave Rowe Trio’s current bass player, Kevin O’Reilly.

The trio’s sound is a mix of traditional, nautical and Irish sounds. When asked about the Irish influence in his music, Rowe broke into a huge grin. He attributes it to the fact that he grew up listening to Schooner Fare, a group composed of his dad "and two guys named Romanoff." He paused a bit for effect, given the improbability of Romanoff as an Irish surname. "Chuck Romanoff went to college in Nova Scotia," he explained, attributing the maritime, Celtic feel of the group’s music to the influence of the Canadian seacoast.

Besides the "huge" influence of Schooner Fare, Rowe grew up listening to groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary; the Kingston Trio; the Clancy Brothers; the Eagles; and the Beatles. "I really loved the folk music of the ‘60s. In fact, my mother took me to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert when I was a teenager." He was also lucky enough to meet Dave Guard, one of the founding members of the folk group, the Kingston Trio. "It was a short meeting, but he gave me some recordings to listen to which absolutely opened my eyes."

Right now, he has his eyes set on continuing to expand the Dave Rowe Trio’s fan base. The name was chosen not out of vanity, but rather out of simple brand recognition. In his home state of Maine, many recognize the name from hiss days playing with his father as a member of Rowe by Rowe.

This should not be a difficult goal, if his recent performance at Milwaukee’s Irish Cultural and Heritage Center is any measure. The seats filled quickly, and the audience was enthralled as Rowe’s huge, deep voice filled the room and vibrated off the walls. Within minutes, he had everyone singing and clapping along. It was a toe-tapping good time, whether barefoot or wearing big shoes.
- Irish American Post: Jun-Aug. '05/Vol. 6 Issue 1


Discography

1996: Tom and Dave Rowe: Rowe by Rowe
2002: Dave Rowe: By the Way
2004: Dave Rowe (Trio): Big Shoes
2005: Dave Rowe Trio: Rolling Home
2006: Dave Rowe Trio: The Good Life
2006: Dave Rowe Trio with Denny Breau and Phil House: A Holiday Concert
2007: Dave Rowe Trio: Three's a Charm

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Bio

What is the Dave Rowe Trio? It’s an acoustic group from Maine. It is just a little bit folk, just a little bit bluegrass, just a little bit Celtic, just a little bit traditional, and a whole lot of fun. The band is the continuation of a legacy in Maine music which started with Schooner Fare, the band Dave’s late father, Tom Rowe, founded with brothers Steve and Chuck Romanoff. The legacy continued when Dave and dad formed Rowe by Rowe in 1993 and expanded when they added Denny Breau in 1998 to become Turkey Hollow.

With the passing of his dad in January of 2004, Dave felt a need and responsibility to continue to promote and grow the beautiful musical garden which was left to him. He asked two of Maine’s finest musicians, fiddler Edward Howe and bassist Kevin O’Reilly to join him to become the Dave Rowe Trio. They have been tearing it up ever since their debut on St. Patrick’s Day 2004 at the Blaine House at the request of Gov. John Baldacci. They completed a CD of mostly Celtic titles that spring, and released it at events in Sykesville, Maryland and Portland, Maine. In October of 2004 they made their first appearance at the Fryeburg Fair, Maine’s largest agricultural fair, and were so well-liked they were rebooked for 2005 on the spot! The guys recently completed a new CD of maritime music called "Rolling Home" which was released in the summer of 2005. They are currently in the studio completing a new CD of folk, roots, and original music for 2006 for summer release and will be releasing a live CD in early 2007.

Dave Rowe:
Dave Rowe was born in Lewiston, Maine on April 10, 1973. Though he grew up in a very musical environment with two parents who were professional entertainers as well as an uncle and both grandfathers, Dave did not have any musical aspirations as a child. It wasn’t until he was a middle school student that he was persuaded by music teachers who were aware of his heritage to participate in the band (as tuba player) and in chorus. In a short time Dave began taking piano lessons from local legend and Juilliard graduate Vesta Orr, quickly moving from Three Blind Mice to cornerstones of the classical piano repertoire. Dave also studied pipe organ and music theory with Professor Marion Anderson at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Before long Dave realized that he wanted to make music his life’s work and began to broaden his experience from classical training into more diverse pursuits. Dave asked his Dad (the late Tom Rowe of Schooner Fare) for electric bass lessons. He soon began teaching himself to play other instruments including guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Within a year he found himself gainfully employed in the music business as the first bass player for the critically-acclaimed Makem Brothers (the sons of legendary Irish music performer, Tommy Makem).

Upon graduation from Edward Little high School, Dave left the Makems to study at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut as a music composition major. After a successful semester at Hartt, the call of the road proved too seductive, and Dave left Hartt to tour with rising Maine country music star, Don Campbell, collaborating on Don’s second album, “Higher Ground,” and co-writing some of Don’s signature songs including Love is Blind and Rosalina.

In 1992, while still playing with Don, Dave and his Dad, Tom, formed the group Rowe by Rowe. The duo toured extensively for six years and released one self-titled CD in 1997. After three years with Don, Dave moved on to join forces with the popular award-winning country group, the Silver Dollar Band. He also broadened into performing as a solo artist and started his own Celtic music group, Murphy’s Lawbreakers. Following the demise of the Silver Dollar Band, Dave and Tom chose to expand their duo. In April of 1998 they asked guitarist and singer-songwriter Denny Breau to join them. Together they became Turkey Hollow and released two CD’s, “Turkey Hollow Consort” in 1999 and “Live Turkey” in 2001.

Following the death of his Dad in the winter of 2004, Dave rededicated himself to his music. He formed the Dave Rowe Trio, a high-energy, neo-celtic, newgrass band, bringing in Edward Howe on fiddle and mandolin, and bassist Kevin O’Reilly. He recently released a CD of traditional Celtic and Maritime folk music titled “Big Shoes,” and continues to work on a tribute CD for his dad, as well as a follow-up to his 2002 debut solo album, “By the Way.” When he is not on the road, Dave runs a recording and multimedia studio with his wife and partner, Kimberly.

Dave lives in Raymond, Maine with Kimberly; son Kieran; and daughter McKenzie.

Kevin O'Reilly:
Kevin O'Reilly was born in Chitose, Japan on July 13, 1969, the son of an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army. No one in his family played musical instruments although the family enjoyed music immensely. Kevin first gravitated towards playing music in the sixth grade at the urging of