Mescalito Riding His White Horse
Where Buddhism and bluegrass mix.
Mescalito Riding His White Horse was inspired by several interviews conducted with Peter Rowan, legendary bluegrass musician, over a period of a few months during 2021. Peter never really followed the path of rock superstar - he was more interested in the alchemical process of music. In discovering this magic, I have felt myself projected across time, place, and identity and tried to put that experience into words. Except for the quoted interviews, which were transcribed as spoken, what follows is a combination of autobiography mixed with my visions and dreams. Some were imagined. All were real.
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Mescalito Riding His White Horse is a beautiful, touching, poetically-hued storytelling, from psychedelic rock to the history of bluegrass, from Buddhism to the intelligence of birds, which not only showcases just who Peter Rowan truly is, but also allows us to bathe in, and understand, his, at times, profound thoughts, vibed observations and elegant narrative in such a way that we might not see things around us in the same way ever again. ~ Exclusive Magazine, Review
Mike Fiorito's short memoir, Mescalito Riding His White Horse, inspired by Peter Rowan and his musical and spiritual journeys, efficiently packs Fiorito's interviews and personal experiences with Rowan and Fiorito's illusions and visions into fewer than 100 pages. The book's title evolves from Rowan's legendary song, "Panama Red." Panama red, Panama Red He'll steal your woman, then he'll rob your head Panama red, Panama Red On his white horse, Mescalito He comes breezin' through town I'll bet your woman's up in bed with Panama Red (Peter Rowan) Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass, once gave Peter Rowan some advice. "Follow the horse's hooves." The Rowan interviews begin with the Bill Monroe stories. "There's a gallop pace in bluegrass unlike any other form of American music," Monroe explained to Rowan. Bluegrass is hard and fast with rhythm, drive, and harmonies. Rowan left Bill Monroe to "find his own voice," but Rowan would still lean on the lessons Monroe taught him, Fiorito writes. "Bill taught me that music is very physical, all the way from trance dancing to crowding the microphone to sing a bluegrass duet. And Bill taught me to go for what he called "the ancient tones." (Fiorito 12) Page after page reveals Rowan's profound spiritual awareness as a Buddhist and the similarities between rural mountain home music and Tibetan music. In his Foreword, Rowan explains the global merging of stories, from the "African griots chanting the genealogies, to the Greek poets singing their epic tales, to the changed lineages of enlightened masters in the vast Himalayas, the blues, bluegrass, and rock and roll here at home, all cultures of our world share the great oral traditions carried like a sacred flame from one encampment to another, sharing." (1) Rowan illuminates how and why music is a living, breathing, creative element that spiritually moves us, which is why we connect to song mentally, emotionally, and physically. Our musical knowledge expands because Rowan is a master musician who explains it in layperson terms. "Like Tibetan music, bluegrass has a very footsy sound, earthy, and yet with spiritual overtones, both in the straight and sacred songs. They have a kind of longing, a yearning for transcendence." (14) Fiorito inserts himself into the book not to withdraw readers from his Peter Rowan subject but to expose the author's admiration for and fascination with his subject. In doing so, we, the readers, understand better why he "had" to write this book. It was a spiritual journey—an awakening. ~ Bluegrass Standard, https://www.thebluegrassstandard.com/post/book-review-mescalito-riding-his-white-horse-by-mike-fiorito
For those who don’t know, Peter Rowan is a bluegrass musician and composer from the US. For those who’d like to know more about Rowan they could do a lot worse than to read Mike Fiorito’s latest book called Mescalito Riding His White Horse. Fiorito has for some time now been interviewing musicians from around the globe, some of which have been published here on Shouts, and as a fan of Rowan’s work he managed to delve deep into the musician’s life, art and activism. Drawing from inspirations of Rowan’s musical adventures, the book becomes much more than a biography of Rowan’s life. Fiorito somehow manages to intertwine parts of his own life story, his interviews with Rowan, song lyric analysis and explorations of Buddhism. See also: Interview: Tibetan Artist Yungchen Lhamo Sings for a Better World It is not everyday one discovers Asian philosophy in the world of blugrass music but Fiorito manages to introduce those two worlds to the reader, and so much more, in a highly entertaining way. Woven around his interviews are fascinating happenings such as Fiorito’s dreams and a vision of the Dalai Lama, to mention a few. ~ Shouts Magazine, https://shoutsmusic.blog/mescalito-riding-his-white-horse-music-book-review/
Details in link ~ Dan Miller, Managing Editor at Bluegrass Unlimited. Published July 1, 2022. , https://bluegrassunlimited.com/article/mescalito-riding-his-white-horse/
Mad Swirl Magazine associate editor Fiorito explores his love for the work of famed bluegrass musician Peter Rowan in this genre-blending work of creative nonfiction. In the spring of 2021, the author had the opportunity to interview Rowan, who’s one of his personal heroes. The musician told the author about playing with the legendary Bill Monroe, who’s often called “the Father of Bluegrass,” in the early 1960s and also explained his interest in Buddhism and Tibetan music, which he says “shares a similarity with bluegrass. They’re both from remote mountainous areas populated by hill country people.…They have a kind of longing, a yearning for transcendence.” That yearning for transcendence infuses this book, which combines Fiorito’s research on Rowan’s oeuvre with his own musings. Dreams and visions sit beside accounts of interactions—some real, some imagined—involving Rowan, artists such as Yungchen Lhamo, Harry Smith, and Juan Carlos Pinto, and figures from Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. At one point, the author offers an account of his vision of the Dalai Lama asking about his young child: “When you look at your ten-year-old son, Travis, do you see every single moment of his being?” Buddhist master Padmasambhava and one of his students discuss Mescalito, a character from one of Rowan’s songs; Fiorito and Rowan meet to discuss spiritualism in a café in Sausalito, California. Accompanied by quotations of Rowan’s lyrics and words by other writers and thinkers, Fiorito’s prose reaches for a visionary register and frequently finds it, as in a dream sequence: “The [bodhi] tree gently waved in the wind. The tree’s motion slowly increased. Now swaying hypnotically, its branches curled like snakes. I could hear a song emerging from inside the tree, as if from its inner soul.” Rowan is an intriguing figure with a storied career, and Fiorito is a solid interviewer. Fans of bluegrass and Eastern philosophy will enjoy this work. ~ Kirkus Review, https://mikefiorito.com/f/kirkus-review-of-mescalito-riding-his-white-horse?blogcategory=Mescalito+
Published September 4th, 2022. Written by Rob Dickins, Founder/Editor at the Psychedelic Press. I first come across the Fiorito’s extraordinary writing in the pages of the Psychedelic Press journal, and his new book perfectly encapsulates his penchant for imaginative non-fiction. In 2021, Fiorito interviewed the outstanding bluegrass musician and songwriter Peter Rowan; a man he also describes as ‘a poet, magus, mystic, and mentor.’ What began as an assignment for a basic interview piece for a magazine quickly morphed into something else however, and Rowan takes on a Mescalito-type persona in this eventual narrative. Overwhelmed by Rowan’s deep alchemical knowledge of music and spiritual wisdoms, Fiorito voyages into the origins of music, with Eastern philosophy and dream-like sequences. The book’s title, of course, is taken from a line in one of Rowan’s songs. The musician has had a distinguished career, including playing with the legendary bluegrass musician Bill Monroe, and is described by Fiorito as the genre’s ‘international ambassador’. He also played with the likes of Clarence White and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. He was part of the Sixties generation, and ‘The world of new hope and change that Peter’s generation helped usher in seems to be fading in the rearview mirror.’ This illustrious cultural background, though perhaps fading, permeates the presence of the text. A vision of the Dalai Lama that Fiorito relates thematically encapsulates the book’s quickly changing deep-dives into the threads of that story, as ‘Pieces of history floated around me, like asteroids.’ Sections of interview delve easily between song lines and dreams, biography, and spiritual motifs—always grounded by Rowan's words. ~ Robert Dickins, Founder of Psychedelic Press , https://psychedelicpress.co.uk/blogs/psychedelic-press-blog/mescalito?fbclid=IwAR208QgQ4dhZDvMAVMtsKbOeTms3Cy0rxHRogHrQixRnwbPnM_W394iPmIQ
Mike Fiorito, who has become a regular contributor here at Bluegrass Today, has written an unusual and very interesting book, based on his relationship with bluegrass singer and songwriter, Peter Rowan. The title, Mescalito Riding His White Horse – Inspired by the Musical Adventures of Peter Rowan, perfectly describes the slim volume. Not a biography of Rowan, though it contains a great many of his memories from a lengthy career, nor an analysis of his work, it is instead a set of essays brought to Fiorito’s creative mind by Pete’s music, and their shared passion for eastern spirituality. There are a number of interviews, plus descriptions of spending time together, and there is no doubt that Mike is a devotee of Rowan’s music. He has thought deeply about it, and uses it as a springboard for his own musings, about love, life, and everything, including one relationship with a woman that lasted through many years, off and on, with Peter’s music as the glue. Fiorito is a clever and talented writer, and he converts his free form impressions into crisp prose that is fun to read. And it does offer some real insight into Peter and his way of creating. Anyone who is a serious fan of Peter Rowan, enough to understand his metaphysical nature, would certainly enjoy Mescalito. As would someone interested in exploring how Buddhism enters and affects one’s life and thinking. Mike Fiorito is an Associate Editor of Mad Swirl Magazine, and a regular contributor to Red Hook Star Review, in addition to Bluegrass Today. He is the author of several other books, all available from his web site. Mescalito Riding His White Horse can be purchased from Amazon for $14.99 in paperback, or $6.99 for Kindle. ~ Bluegrass Today, https://bluegrasstoday.com/mescalito-riding-his-white-horse-by-mike-fiorito/
You did a great job with the book! Really got to the heart of Peter's vibe. ~ Christopher Henry, former member of the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band
Wow! It’s beautiful. I’m touched that you “got” it! I also really like how you amplify the actual locations of events. I’ve always considered the energy of the local landscape as a deep aspect of experiences there. ~ Peter Rowan