320 kbps | 92 MB | LINKS
For the follow-up to 2015’s Into The Sea and his debut for At The Helm, Dean Owens took himself off to Nashville to enlist the services of go-to producer Nielson Hubbard. Hubbard also contributes piano, bass, drums and assorted bits and bobs alongside seasoned Nashville musicians such as Dean Marold, Evan Hutchings and Will Kimbrough.
Indeed, Kimbrough not only plays on the album, he’s also co-writer on five tracks, the first up being album opener The Last Song. The Last Song was, in fact, the first they wrote together, a bouncy end of the night countrified pub rock number drawing on a mutual love of Ronnie Lane and The Waterboys. The title track follows it (the video for which premiered on FRUK); another co-write and the impetus for the overall album, a slow march, blues and gospel-informed number about the call of home featuring meaty Kimbrough guitar, swirling organ from Dean Mitchell, the Worry Dolls on harmonies and the big voice backing vocals of Kira Small.
It’s back to train-rolling uptempo rhythm for Elvis Was My Brother, a song inspired by a letter from a friend who, raised by his mother, frequently uprooted and with little contact with his father, found a friend and brother listening to Elvis on his mother’s cassettes.
Marrying his Scottish roots and the Americana influences of Townes Van Zandt, featuring aching resonator guitar When the Whisky’s Not Enough is a slowly gathering sad, broken relationship number steeped in a feeling of hopelessness.
Owens and Kimbrough switch acoustic and electric guitar roles for Bad News, another moody, bluesy songs which, underpinned by soulful organ, is, apparently inspired by a movie rather than anything biographical, a song for a woman trapped in an abusive marriage.
Small makes a return, gospel wailing through the defiant in the face of the odds lyrics of No Way Around It, opening on slide guitar before picking up a swampy tribal thump rhythm with Kimbrough laying down both the banjo riff and snarling guitar licks.
Written back in June 2016 on the night Muhammad Ali died, Louisville Lip is a simple acoustic ode to his childhood hero and his inspiration to become join the Leith Victoria AAC Boxing Club when he was a kid.
It’s one of three very personal numbers. Mother, co-written with Kimbrough and with input from Danny Wilson, is, obviously, a love letter and thank you note to his mum, an almost reggae lope rhythm with trumpet and a percolating organ, the line “you can’t break a cracked cup” apparently one of her saying. The other, Madeira Street, is a heart-aching companion piece to Evergreen off the last album, a song written in response to his older sister Julie’s battle with cancer. She sadly lost the fight before that album came out and the new song, an acoustic strum sway featuring the Worry Dolls on harmonies, is titled for the street where they grew up and his memories of their shared childhood.
Of the other numbers, set to an acoustic strum and piano, and with again perhaps a touch of Ronnie Lane, the look on the bright side lyrics of Anything Helps was inspired by a sign he saw a homeless man holding near a Tennessee freeway. Famous Last Words is a waltzing, trumpet-coloured musing on vows that, while meant at the time, never seem to last. Meanwhile, written mainly by Kimbrough and based on a true story, featuring mandolin solo by Joshua Britt, Love Prevails is an inspirational country slow waltz about a family devastated by violence and trapped in poverty, but ultimately surviving the wreckage through the love they shared.
Southern Wind is an album that fully deserves to take Owens’ career to a higher level.