NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 29, 2021) –– Critically acclaimed vocalist John Cowan has announced the release of his emotional rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When He Returns.” The track, which features Reese Wynans, was produced by John Carter Cash. Proceeds from the sale of the song will benefit Nashville-based Thistle Farms, a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support. Cowan will perform “When He Returns” live on Easter Sunday during the 9:30 a.m. streaming service of St. Augustine’s Chapel. Listeners can also tune in for Jeannie Seely’s interview with Cowan and the premiere of the recording during Sundays With Seely on SiriusXM Willies Roadhouse channel 59 from 11a – 3p cst. “When He Returns” is available on all digital music platforms on Friday, April 2 here.
“I have been a fan of John Cowan’s angel voice since New Grass Revival days. Over the years I have become a fan of John Cowan the person,” stated Reverend Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms. “He is a man whose heart beats for justice for all people who have known oppression. If your heart ever feels weary, play this song. It will get you up and make your heart ready to meet the world.”
“The first time I heard this song (from Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming album), I was stunned by the beauty and power of both the sound and the message. As a person of faith, I have found these words consistently meaningful from that day to this,” shared John Cowan. “While my personal understanding of grace has grown as my own life has unfolded, singing this song always leads and connects me to the source of my belief – God.”
Cowan became aware of Thistle Farms some 20 years ago and has been a longtime admirer of Rev. Becca Stevens’s work and attended church at St. Augustine’s Chapel. The work of Thistle Farms has now been acknowledged all over the world.
Cowan is himself a person in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, as well as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. He believes one of the most important actions of his recovery is to “give back what we have been freely given.”
“Giving back guides our lives, teaches us empathy, and helps us to never forget where we come from,” Cowan said. “That’s why I have chosen to donate 100% of the proceeds from sales of this single to Thistle Farms.”
About Thistle Farms:
Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. We do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support. For more information visit https://thistlefarms.org.
About John Cowan:
John Cowan, also known as the Voice of Newgrass, has been singing his heart out for more than forty years, and his soaring vocals have only improved with time. A true innovator, John applies his powerful pipes to genres from country, bluegrass, and gospel to soul, jazz, and rock-and-roll – often within the space of a single concert. His ability to move fluidly through multiple styles, and carry mesmerized audiences on the journey with him, has set him apart as one of the most loved and admired vocal artists of his generation, not just by fans and critics but among fellow musicians as well.
With his distinctive, rock-tinged tenor vocal and heart-thumping electric bass, John, along with fellow New Grass Revival band mates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, and Curtis Burch, and later Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn, introduced a new generation of music fans to an explosive, experimental, and ultimately, eponymous brand of bluegrass. The “newgrass” sound spawned popular jam bands such as Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band in addition to shaping the sensibilities of country megastars Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, the Zac Brown Band, and Darius Rucker.
After New Grass Revival disbanded in 1990, John went on to record a series of critically acclaimed solo albums including Soul’d Out (Sugar Hill, 1986), the self-titled John Cowan (Sugar Hill, 2000), Always Take Me Back (Sugar Hill, 2002), New Tattoo (Pinecastle, 2006), 8,745 Feet, Live at Telluride (2005, re-released by E-1 Entertainment, 2009), Comfort & Joy (E-1 Entertainment, 2009), The Massenburg Sessions (E-1 Entertainment, 2010) and Sixty (Compass, 2014).
Over the years, he also has been in high demand as a session musician and boasts vocal and/or bass credits on some 140 recordings, including albums by Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Rosanne Cash, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Ashley Cleveland, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Hootie and the Blowfish, Janis Ian, Hal Ketchum, Alison Krauss, Delbert McClinton, Reba McEntire, Tim O’Brien, Mark O’Connor, Poco, John Prine, Kenny Rogers, Darius Rucker, Leon Russell, Darrell Scott, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr., Jesse Winchester, Wynonna, Zac Brown, The Doobie Brothers, and the Will the Circle Be Unbroken albums.
The John Cowan Band, in various incarnations that inevitably feature some of acoustic music’s finest players, has been a force to be reckoned with these many years. John is a fixture and a favorite at major festivals like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and Wilkesboro, North Carolina’s “traditional-plus” MerleFest, and he routinely sells out performing arts theaters and distinguished music clubs and listening rooms around the country. Stints in his band have helped launch the careers of Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers), Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), and Scott Vestal, among others.
John also is known for mixing it up; his creative collaborations range from his 2012 MerleFest performance alongside Darrell Scott and Pat Simmons to appearances with Nashville favorites The Long Players and Grooveyard. On his 2010 recording, The Massenburg Sessions, John joined forces with legendary producer George Massenburg (Little Feat, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt and others) to craft a collection that has the warm, intimate feel of a living room jam. It features duets with Maura O’Connell and Del McCoury.
In 2014, John recorded what many say is his most adventurous collection yet, Sixty. Packed with stars like Bonnie Bramlett, Ray Benson, Sam Bush, Rodney Crowell, Chris Hillman, John Jorgenson, Alison Krauss, Bernie Leadon, Huey Lewis, Jim Messina, Leon Russell, John McFee, and others, this album set a new standard of excellence.
In a position he has held since 2010, John also works a regular gig traveling the world with the Doobies Brothers, laying down the low notes and singing the high ones as they perform hits such as “Black Water,” “China Grove,” “Taking it to the Streets,” and “Listen to the Music,” as well as new songs that showcase the relevancy of this iconic classic rock band.
In 2020, John, along with his former New Grass Revival bandmates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Ebo Walker, Curtis Burch, Butch Robbins, Bela Fleck, and Pat Flynn, was inducted into the prestigious International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. This honor solidifies their place as one of the most influential bands in Bluegrass music history.
Spring 2021 finds John prepping for the recording of a new album, his first in more than six years, this time with an amazing conglomerate of world-class musicians that includes Andrea Zonn, Darrell Scott, and Greg Morrow – produced by legendary singer/songwriter Wendy Waldman. It also finds him guesting on a star-studded tribute album to one of his friends and musical heroes, the late Tony Rice. Both albums will be released in the summer of 2021.