The Man From Leith
Eel Pie Records
Hopefully The Way to Becoming an Overnight Success (After 20 years!)
Now; I make it a rule that I never read someone else’s review of an album before I write mine. It’s part arrogance and part being sensible; as I like to speak about how the music touches and even affects me personally.
But, last week young Mr Owens had a ‘Twitter Spat’ with a once respected British publication over their review of this album; and me being me, I had to be nosey and see what all the fuss was about.
I’m glad I did; but wish I hadn’t. I’m not naming names; but the reviewer in question is obviously a bit of a self-absorbed *knacker!
Hey ho ……. onto my prose regarding the charmingly sub-titled Best Of Dean Owens.
The actual title track The Man From Leith opens proceedings in the most personal of ways; as Dean sings a Love Song to and about his father. Powerful stuff indeed; and each line had me thinking of my own dear departed Dad who lived a parallel life to the Man From Leith; albeit as a coal miner and WWII Sailor; but Dean’s articulate words had me thinking of him in a brand new light.
One of Dean Owens many strengths as a songwriter is the way he can write deeply personal songs like that one and Elvis Was My Brother or more pertinently Baby Fireworks; but make the listener believe the song could have been written about their own life.
Without drawing too much attention to that ‘review’ I’ve always loved Dean’s soft yet rich Scottish brogue; which is actually universal and far more suited to his romantic visions of Americana than if he adopted that yucky Pan-American accent so many British acts use for their Country songs.
Listen to the beautifully windswept New Mexico or Southern Wind and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you! They; alongside others would lose so much of their subtle patina if our young Scot tried to sound Texan or Oklahoman.
I will hold my hands up and admit to being a fan for a few years now; but several of his earlier songs are still brand new to me; and while I want to say his songwriting has ‘obviously’ evolved in the last 20 years; I’m not so sure it has. Okay; the subject matter has obviously matured and he’s become a lot more reflective; but New Mexico comes from 2001 and the first of his gorgeous odes to the fair city of Glasgow; My Town was first released in 2004; yet both sit quite happily alongside songs from 2018’s fabulous Southern Wind album.
Obviously choosing a single Favourite Song was never going to be easy; Elvis Was My Brother is simply amazing; and has already won that Award on a previous outing; as did Virginia Street; but being the contrary curmudgeon I am I’m going for something brand new to me; and it still took a while to narrow it down to only three.
The gorgeous duet with Katrine Polwart; Strangers Again is quite possibly the finest Scottish Folk song this century; but don’t let that title put you off; if the couple pretended they came from Montana, you’d swear this was 100% Rootsy Americana!
Even for a songwriter Dean Owens has a very vivid imagination; and when he puts himself into the role of an inmate The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin you really and truly believe it’s autobiographical; and the tempo the band create is pure Cash too.
But; there’s another song from Dean Owen’s back catalogue that tugged on my heartstrings; and it will yours too.
I had heard Raining in Glasgow once before; sung live and you could have heard a pin drop as Dean squeezed every ounce of pathos out of it. Here on disc, with a full band behind him; it’s perhaps even more beautiful; as the singer pines for his home town while being many miles away; and in this case the other side of the world, when the seeing and hearing rain bouncing off the slated rooftops would be the finest thing in the world. Yet again; it’s a deeply personal song that will bring memories of our own home towns and villages to the fore of many of us who have had to move away for work or even love. I know it did me.
When it came to selecting a single Favourite song from this collection; I found myself getting a bit angry.
Why? You may well ask.
Well; I’m sure Dean Owens now makes a living from this music business malarkey; but when you sit down and listen intently to this compilation you too, will find yourself wondering why your friends, family and co-workers will spend absolute fortunes travelling 100’s of miles to see the likes of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith or the latest on the conveyor belt, Lewis Capaldi; while Dean Owens (and scores like him) write and sing songs which are every bit as good; if not better yet they remain invisible to the public at large.
Do them a favour come their birthdays and slip a copy of this in with your Clinton’s card. You won’t regret it and they will love you forever.
PS Famed novelist and Bon Viveur Irvine Welsh writes the liner notes in his own inimitable style btw; making a CD or LP purchase much better value than a download.
Released March 20th 2020
*knacker is a Geordie expression for either a) a testicle or b) someone who has all the charm of a testicle.