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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
You could say Gareth Owen was a late bloomer when it came to getting his recording career into motion, but this could not be said for his work as a prize-winning poet, and was presenter of the BBC's long-running Poetry Please!
Here, Owens revisits old-fashioned country storytelling. He was first turned onto country music via the great story-teller himself, Tom T Hall, and though it could be his approach and sound (no bad thing) is a little dated a great many will find it most refreshing and at the same time be amazed by Owen’s uncanny grasp of the art and sound.
On occasions I found a likeness to Scottish – Australian act, Eric Bogle and for that matter one or two others from down-under come to mind as he speaks of life of the workingman (“Nowhere” is steeped in the sound). Support comes from the excellent Ruby Turner (vocals), Matt Park (pedal steel guitar), Ruth Goller (bass), Ed Begley (piano, Hammond organ, Harmonium and backing vocals) he also produced the record), James Kitchman (guitars) and Tony Bianco (percussion).
“Lady Whiskey” sets the show in motion, and with sturdy aids in the moody and sobering, pedal steel warmed above noted “Nowhere” (as he speaks of waiting for the mail man and how though like many, it is the kind of humdrum day he would not exchange for any other), talking blues hinted “Jesse James And The Barber” like a good few more, it draws the listener ever closer to the speaker as he tells his story. On this occasion he has a catchy chorus to go with it as Park’s picking dances ‘round Owen’s lead vocals. Best track on the record? “Nothing Better To Do” is a plumb contender. Owen also produces another tribute song to the great Hank Williams in “Before I Get To Heaven” that speaks of that fateful last night, and for those who don’t know Hank died in the back of his car on New Year’s Day (1953) when he was out on the road in between gigs in Canton, Ohio.
The album is a nice listen, and though not necessarily an album I would prefer to country music’s main liners Owen writes a good song, and knows how to present a good story, and what fine players he invites to the party. How about a UK tour!
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