At The Helm Records
Americana Meets The Big Country Sound of Nova Scotia On Game-Changing Release.
Like many reviewers I’ve been sitting on this disc since before Christmas; giving it occasional outings in the car and on the RMHQ office stereo; getting my head around the nuances of the new songs and to some extent the ‘big production’ which isn’t what I expected at all.
With a box full of other CD’s to review I’d always planned to write my prose in the week before release; only to find the world and it’s dog have been uploading and it has to be said; national magazines have even been printing glowing reviews.
So; does the world need my thoughts? Probably not; but as a long term fan and supporter of young Mr Owens I may as well chuck in my twopenn’orth before he disappears off into the Ed Sheeran stratosphere.
Let’s start with album cover……YOWZA…..how cool is that artwork? If you were in a record shop and saw that in a rack you would just have to pick it up, wouldn’t you? The correct answer is YES.
Then when turning it over the song titles all look ‘interesting’ and in keeping with that iconic imagery on the other side.
So; does the music live up to the packaging?
It’s a personal quirk but I love songs that start with 1…2…3.4!; and Last Song which is actually the first song starts in such a manner; and it’s a big ole passionate Alt. Country Rocker with a Celtic heartbeat. Even the first time I played this CD I thought that Dean has finally ‘grown into his voice’ and I still feel that way about this particular song; he sounds like he trusts himself to ‘let go’ and that’s just what he does; and there’s some mighty fine guitar and piano too btw.
With a powerful song like that as an opener there’s always the danger that the artist has peaked too soon.
Oh no…..oh no, no, no.
The title track Southern Wind follows and can only be described as EPIC…..as it slowly builds from humble beginnings through an atmospheric chorus through to the thunderous ending; conjuring up memories of Bob Seger and even the Allman Brothers; but hey Dean Owen sounds like neither…..this is very much HIS SONG and one that is surely destined for legendary status on some soundtrack or other; or at the very least Top Gear’s next Father’s Day CD!
Even if Dean Owens only ever recorded those two songs he could die a proud man; but there’s even better to come….trust me…..there is.
The Scotsman’s Folk roots show through the Country facade on When The Whisky’s Not Enough; and on No Way Around It he gives us a crashing Swamp Rocker Deluxe with added Gospel singers in the background, plus there’s even a jaunty calypso nod with the bittersweet Mother and immediately afterwards Dean manages to make the delightful ballad Famous Last Words take a swerve down a Jazzy street, but it fits in perfectly well as it prepares us for the maudlin and very Scottish Madeira Street with it’s dark edges and rainswept imagery.
Many times over the last few years I’ve said in public that much of the best Americana Music I hear comes from way outside the USA and I believe this album is just such a case; as my two favourite songs here are love songs to and about two of America’s finest sons; but written and sung with a passion that only thousands of miles can bring; as both characters are probably taken for granted in their homeland.
Whereas in Europe the memory of both Elvis and Muhammad Ali are still revered to this day.
Over a virtual Twangfest on Elvis Was My Brother Dean sings about a friend that “had no Father from the age of 10” so he used The King as a surrogate “brother” listening to and learning every single word on Forty Greatest Hits and using the songs as a template for life itself. A very clever song indeed.
Most reviewers will go for SOUTHERN WIND as the ‘best song’ on this album; but listen deeply to Owen’s words on Elvis Was My Brother and then follow it with the heart-shredding Louisville Lip, featuring some truly mournful trumpet (cornet?) in the background and you will hear a songwriter on the verge of greatness.
Dean Owens has been around the scene for a very long time; and with the Whisky Hearts trooped backwards and forwards the UK and Europe plying their trade to anyone that would listen; but that hard apprenticeship is about to finally pay off as SOUTHERN WIND has all the hallmarks of being a Game-changer for this proud son of Leith; and it’s fair to say he deserves every bit of success coming his way.
Released February 16th 2018