CATTARAUGUS - It's not every day a community the size of Cattaraugus can boast a homegrown music CD.
Classical guitarist Will Lowry, however, has recently come out with "Fragments," a collection of nine scripture-based songs, which showcase the full range of his extraordinary musical talents. Lowry, better known as "Bill" during his younger days, grew up in Ellicottville, and got into music early on.
"I picked up my first guitar at (age) 12," he said, "and haven't put one down since. By the time I was 18, I was playing in local bars (mostly in the Ellicottville area)."
Will Lowry, pictured above, recently released his second CD, ‘Fragments.’
Photo by Arville Pritchard
That admission came with a laugh and a shrug.
"At that age, it didn't matter where I played or what I played, just so long as I was making music somewhere," he said.
By this time, Lowry had become quite an accomplished natural musician, but wasn't content with that. He wanted to improve his understanding of the subject and attended the State University at Fredonia to study music in general and the saxophone in particular.
Still, guitar remained Lowry's first love, and since Fredonia didn't offer that as an option at the time, he moved on to Boston, where he studied classical guitar with a private instructor.
"That's where you learn a more intricate fingering style of playing," he explained.
Through the early 1970s, Lowry performed with several local bands. As could be expected, considering the time period, their repertoire was mostly rock and roll. At the same time, his life was taking a different turn, as he became ever more interested in the Christian youth movement. He began attending impromptu meetings, and, as his faith grew, it seemed to trigger an overwhelming need to express it in the form he knew best - music.
Lowry had always enjoyed toying with melodies and lyrics, but now, writing music became more than a hobby.
It became his passion.
He felt driven to share, via music, the peace and joy that had come into his life. In 1979, he created his first album, an LP named "Mystery." He followed this only a year later with the cassette, "Come Away," and by 1985, had come out with yet another cassette, which he titled "In Your Presence." With the scriptures as his inspiration, his musicality bubbled to the surface in a seemingly unstoppable flow of lyrics and melodies.
"And then," said Lowry, "life took a really big turn."
While performing at a college concert, he met the girl he would soon marry, Lois Vanderweide. The young couple settled in Cattaraugus, where they embarked on the hectic adventure of starting a family and raising two strong-willed sons, Eli and Job.
Faith remained the central focus of their lives, but other needs loomed large. Lowry spent increasingly longer hours on the job, which for him, meant custom wall-papering and painting. Little time remained for writing songs, nor did he perform as regularly as before.
"Music had to take a back-seat for a few years," he admitted.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
But he never put music completely aside. It was too much a part of him. He'd be wall-papering someone's living room, or maybe applying faux-finish to an old radiator, "when this perfect line for a song would pop into my head ... and I'd try to hang onto it until I got home that night," he said.
It was this piecemeal collection of stray lines and momentary inspirations that finally impelled Lowry to undertake his latest CD. Aptly enough, he titled it "Fragments."
"Fragments" is also the title of the album's second song, which clearly reflects Lowry's view of life as a collection of bits and pieces that can only gain coherence through a spiritual perspective.
"My music has always reflected every day life," he said, "only now it's more so. It's about ordinary things, as seen through the lens of scripture."
Not surprisingly, both of Lowry's sons have turned out to be musically talented. They perform with their dad on portions of the new CD.
"In the song, 'Nicodemus,'" Lowry said, "Job is on drums, Eli on alto sax and my friend, Neil Binder, is on bass."
He added that his wife, Lois, helped out with some of the vocals, "but she absolutely refused to let me put her name in the credits," he added with a laugh.
Lowry insisted the newly released album could never have come to fruition without the enthusiastic dedication of Bob White and Wendy Krzemien. They run a production company, Diamond Lake Studios, tucked unexpectedly into the rural fringes of the "Amish country" near Cattaraugus.
"They're both talented musicians, and played professionally for 15 or 20 years before starting up the studio," Lowry said.
"I met Bob and Wendy at a concert I was performing," Lowry said, "and they said they'd like to help me make a CD. I'm lucky. They're the ultimate perfectionists and endlessly patient. For example, one song in that album took us 12 hours (over the course of three days) to get down. They wanted it right just as much as I did, and I appreciate them so much. This was a labor of love."
Asked if he saw more albums in the future, Lowry said, "Well, first, I have to play these (songs) through for a while. But I've been wanting to experiment with a "bluesy" style, and maybe try more variety with the tuning."
Now that the new CD is out, it can be obtained at several local outlets, including: Trinity Guitar in Jamestown, Heavenly Treasures in Cattaraugus, Jesse's Toy Shop in Gowanda, Musical Arts Academy in Salamanca and Nature's Remedy in Ellicottville. For more information about Lowry's work and future concert plans, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 257-9192.