Dirty Linen, June/July 91
FOR YOU - Flying Fish CD FF 70524 (1990)
For over two decades Bryan Bowers has been as symbolically linked with the autoharp as Earl Scruggs is with the banjo. Bowers is not content to merely strum his instrument, but instead picks individual notes with each of the five fingers of his right hand. FOR YOU is Bowers' fifth recording, and his first in eight years. It is mostly solo, featuring Bowers' rich, expressive voice and, of course, his astounding instrumental chops.
Although Bowers did not write any of the tunes on FOR YOU, he drew on a relatively few sources for material. Most of the instrumentals are by Bowers' neighbor and Washington state fiddle champion Vivian Williams, mostly alternating with the humorous songs of Mark Graham (whose oft-recorded "Aura" is included here, along with a devastatingly funny stab at televangelists entitled "Oral"). The specter of age is addressed in "Old Lovers" (with accompaniment by the Seldom Scene) and by Tom Dundee's "Hollywood Hotel." Bowers manages to inject new life into old saws such as the traditional "Bil1 Cheatam" and Stephen Foster's "Hard Times." Bryan Bowers is a remarkable performer who shares his dazzling instrument prowess without flaunting it, and who injects a strong dose of warmth and humanity in his performances. FOR YOU is among his best work.