After years touring with some of Country’s biggest names including Emmylou Harris, Steve Earl, John Hiatt and Nanci Griffith, April 2015 welcomed the fifth solo album of Dean Owens who comfortably took his rightful place centre stage with Into the Sea. The album is filled with self-penned songs capturing the storytelling of folk music while accompanied by a, dare I say, rock vibe. It is undeniably difficult to place the Scottish singer-songwriters style, but with Owens’ song writing skills, delivering simple but catchy melody lines time after time his fan base is undeniably growing.
The sound of the album resembles that of an early 90s David Gray but with the sweet addition of a subtle Scottish touch. Although the album was produced, recorded and mixed by Neilson Hubbard at Mr Lemons in Nashville, Tennessee and is bursting with American musicians, Owens roots are represented through stories and tales from the streets and hills of Scotland setting the scene of a charming Scottish landscape.
Dora is the opening track and perhaps the highlight of the album. The song tells the story of his grandmother, who was raised in a travelling circus, and the intriguing characters like ‘Charlie the boneless wonder’ with whom she lived with. The uplifting fiddle playing and Heather Donegan’s sweet vocal line compliments the track justly.
Kids (1979) is a sombre track in which Owens reflects on his school years and the friends he had as a teenager. Owens’ lyrics are not surging with poetic charm but, nonetheless, powerful in the message they bring. With lyrics such as ‘Jimmy died at 20’ and ‘Andy’s a drunk’ the song drowns in melancholy and is a stark reminder that we are not all gifted with the same fortunes. While the accompaniment is unimposing to the vocals throughout the record, the layers that are built by the musicians provide a showcase of their musical intuition and raw styles.
Fans of Travis will be pleased with Virginia Street as it resonates with a Travis-like feel. Here, Owens takes inspiration from a friend by turning a conversation – which took place over a pint in a pub in Glasgow – into a gentle song with an unexpected hook. The song, alongside others on the album, dives into the personal life of Owens. The piano accompaniment and percussion drive the song and assist in giving the track a slight heart-warming quality.
The bonus track, ‘I’m Pretending I Don’t Love You Anymore’ brings an entirely different sound with an old country style duet. Owens is joined with the smoky and haunting voice of Suzy Bogguss. The combination of the voices is an enjoyable and uplifting end to a great album and is likely to leave fans hopeful for more of this flattering collaboration in the future.
Owens has taken his music throughout Europe, the US and Australia and will continue this year with gigs across the UK alongside his band Whisky Hearts. The five piece are sure to flaunt their skills and attract their already fast growing fan base with their charismatic stage-presence and chorus-heavy songs, encouraging audience participation, bringing the great Scottish ceilidh tradition into their performances.
Review by: Kim Carnie
Folk Radio UK Live Session:
For those that have not heard it here is the live session Dean recorded exclusively for Folk Radio UK. It opens with 10 Miles to Saturday Night, a song that didn’t make the album.
Dean Owens: acoustic guitar and vocals
Sean Pugh: piano
Recorded at the Slate Room studio, Pencaitland, http://slateroomstudio.com/
Sat 18 Jul Central Bar, Gateshead
Sat 1 Aug Southern Fried Americana Festival, Perth
Sun 2 Aug Traquair Fair, Innerleithen
Sat 15 Aug Cash Back (Songs I Learned From Johnny), Just Festival at Central Hall, Edinburgh
Into The Sea is Out Now via Drumfire records
Order via Amazon