In 1972, Aztec Two-Step, whose name comes from a poem by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, burst upon the scene with their self-titled debut album on Elektra Records. Since then Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman have spent a lifetime making music together as the folk/rock duo Aztec Two-Step. Their first album, along with their subsequent albums for RCA Records were staples of progressive FM and college radio and helped to bring the folk/rock music of the 1960s into the 70s and beyond.
As their recording career continued, so did the critical acclaim.
In 1987 Living in America, received the New York Music Award for Best Folk Album and was named in Billboard’s year-end critic’s poll. They have been praised in countless major US newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, and have appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, such as the David Letterman Show, the King Biscuit Flour Hour, and World Café Live.
Rex and Neal released their first live album,"Highway Signs" on the PRIME-CD folk label in 1996 in celebration of their 25th anniversary. In 1999 they were the subjects of the documentary, “No Hit Wonder,” which was aired on several PBS stations across America. To commemorate their 30th anniversary in 2001, they released a double CD compellation entitled, “Live & Rare” and in 2005, released their career-defining “Days of Horses” CD to rave reviews. Of this release, the Boston Globe said, “Fans of the duo’s harmony-driven tunes and easygoing acoustic guitar riffs will recognize their James Taylor-meets-Simon & Garfunkel sound. What’s new is the mood. This album sits back on its haunches as Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman look back wistfully at American pop culture and their own ride through it.”
2007 saw several hallmark events for the duo. In June, Aztec Two-Step performed “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road)” at a very special Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival as the author’s hometown marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of On The Road. Also In June 2007, Real Simple, a popular national lifestyle magazine, named Aztec Two-Step’s debut recording one of the top five classic folk albums of all-time, along with works by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Tom Rush and Phil Ochs. The article cites the duo as “surpass[ing] Simon and Garfunkel for exquisite harmonies, musicianship and emotion.”
Rhino Records released Forever Changing-The Golden Age of Elektra Records 1963-1973, a five-CD box set that tells the story of this landmark record label and the music that defined an era. The collection includes Aztec Two-Step’s “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road).”
“Live at TCAN,” a new DVD was released, featuring a 35th anniversary concert at The Center for Arts in Natick, Massachusetts, a performance of the self-titled debut album in its entirety, plus other fan-favorites from Aztec Two-Step’s long and distinguished career. The DVD also includes interviews with the duo and longtime Aztec Two-Step bassist Fred Holman, as well as comments recorded on the Aztec Two-Step “fan-cam.”
Rex and Neal were often reviewed as having the “east coast sensibility,” “intellectual lyricism,” and “ethereal harmonies” of Simon & Garfunkel with their debut album on Elektra Records in 1972. Possessing a rich musical legacy of their own, few groups, if any, were more qualified to interpret and perform the timeless songs and harmonies of their legendary predecessors. In 2008, the duo released “Time It Was -The Simon & Garfunkel Songbook” (Red Engine Records), a live tribute album of S&G’s music, featuring narration by legendary DJ and music historian Pete Fornatale, who provides commentary and insights based on his interviews with Simon & Garfunkel. Three plus years later and counting, Rex, Neal, Pete, and bassist Fred Holman, continue to impress audiences up and down the eastern seaboard with this entertaining and informative show.
In 2009, the It’s About Music label issued a 44-song compilation entitled, “The Persecution and Restoration of Aztec Two-Step.”
To commemorate their 40th Anniversary year, early 2012 brings the official release of Fowler & Shulman’s studio CD “Cause & Effect” (Red Engine Records). A collection of songs of social significance, it is produced by Paul Guzzone and features long-time bassist Fred Holman. The album is a combination of re-worked previously recorded songs and newly mined material. From John Platt of WFUV in New York, “The secret of Aztec Two Step's longevity isn't just the harmony between Rex and Neal, it's also the quality of the songs. On "Cause and Effect" they revisit a lot of their repertoire with crisp acoustic arrangements. And while the songs were mostly inspired by a specific moment in time (Reaganomics, apartheid, John Lennon's assassination), they resonate anew today.”
Headliners in their own right, the duo has appeared in concert with such notable artists as Tim Hardin, Donovan, The Band, Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Michael Bolton, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Heart, Randy Newman, Judy Collins, Jose Feliciano, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Roger McGuinn, Bette Midler, Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Steve Goodman, Laura Nero, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Don McLean, Suzanne Vega, David Bromberg, Jesse Winchester, Jonathan Edwards, Dave Mason, Phoebe Snow, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked, John Sebastian, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Renaissance, Richard Thompson, Al Stewart, America, Poco, Firefall, Atlanta Rhythm Section, NRBQ, Orleans, John Cafferty, The Strawbs, Seals and Crofts, Loggins and Messina, Brewer and Shipley, Batdorf and Rodney, Peter Frampton, Devonsquare, Joan Jett, Joe Ely, ShaNaNa, Papa John Creach, Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Allman/Betts Band, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Pure Prairie League, John Pousette-Dart, Jimmy Buffet, Eddie Rabbit, Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clemens, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Hardin, Rodney Crowell, Crystal Gayle, The Nelson Brothers, B.J. Thomas, Melissa Manchester, David Clayton Thomas, Neil Sedaka, Kenny Rankin, Larry Coryell, Joan Armatrading, The Persuasions, Bill Cosby, Steve Landesberg, Steven Wright, Richard Belzer, Robert Klein and more.
Aztec Two-Step continues to impress audiences with intelligent songwriting, dazzling acoustic lead guitar, and inspiring harmonies, and remain one of acoustic music’s most popular and enduring acts.
“In the midst of pure as silk harmonies and tight pop-rock-folk arrangements,
Fowler’s songs are biting commentaries of contemporary society.”
“Aztec Two-Step comes with interesting and melodious arrangements
and pleasantly breezy tunes.”
New York Times
“Cult folk-rockers can still carry off their sweet, supple harmonies and bouncy
acoustic pop with aplomb. Recommended.”
“…the right sound at the right time…beautiful acoustic guitar playing and questioning
lyrics…songs performed with forceful vocals and near perfect instrumental harmonies.”
“…there was Aztec Two-Step, performing with an unrefined sweetness and verve that was folk-rock,
pure and simple...Here was music that was honest, that spoke from the heart and soul without guilt
or guile, that sang of hope, love and peace without any trace of irony. It was music that had its
The Hartford Courant / 15th Anniversary Concert
“Some of the most endearing, beautiful music I’ve heard in a long time. They’ve solidified
their reputation as unique, exquisite act.”
“Rex and Neal are possibly the best acoustic duo in the world today.”
“Fans of the duo’s harmony-driven tunes and easygoing acoustic guitar riffs will recognize their
James Taylor-meets-Simon & Garfunkel sound. What’s new is the mood. This album sits back on its haunches as Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman look back wistfully at American pop culture and their own ride through it.”
Boston Globe / Days of Horses
“Rock music has its success stories, such as the Rolling Stones and the writing partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. In folk music there is Aztec Two-Step.”
Sarah Cornelius / CtFolk
“To begin with I think they’re both a little weird. Well, maybe eccentric is a better word. With Rex it’s obvious because he’s a poet, and poets are suppose to be like that. Neal is a little different because he’s so open. But his sense of humor is not exactly what you might expect. Of course, maybe I say that they’re weird because I like them, and I think everyone I like is a little weird. I’ve always believed that you need to have a touch of madness to create any art, and the music that Neal and Rex make together is beautiful. It has depth; and sometimes they get this spooky quality that really reaches me. That’s the crux of the matter, their music reaches me.”
“May Aztec Two-Step’s word-brain fill the Air. Anybody that interested in poetry’s welcome to enter my ear.”
“Neal Cassidy and Allen Ginsberg’s participation in the early spread of LSD was not the only effect of the Beat circle
on the growing youth culture of the 1960’s. In fact, the Beat saga would influence millions of youth who might never
read a word. Rock and roll produced at least two songs about Neal over the coming years, and both are superb. A duo called Aztec Two-Step permanently enshrined his archetype with the lovely “Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty.” “Cassidy” was the second song, a beautiful ballad written by Bob Weir, a friend of Neal’s and rhythm guitarist for the Greatful Dead.”
From Dennis McNally’s Desolate Angel