East meets East collaboration
Dean Owens gives us another musical gem with his newest album ‘Pictures’ , released on November 3. He continues his transatlantic connections and this time It’s East meets East as he teams up with long time collaborators and pals, Will Kimbrough and Neilson Hubbard. Recorded remotely both in East Lothian and East Nashville, the trio have melded their considerable talents and experience to deliver a rich collection of Owens songs, written during the pandemic.
Owens is a busy lad. He’s released two highly acclaimed albums (including a double CD) in the last 18 months, recorded with musicians from desert noir icons Calexico. These have deservedly raised his profile, leading to a string of sold-out tours, and festival dates across Europe and more upcoming gigs in the UK, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands .
He recently joined Calexico’s Joey Burns on stage in Utrecht, and without pausing for a breath, headed off to northern Italy where the is currently recording for his next project Spirit Ridge (in the footsteps of the lion tamer). To read about this exciting project, including the opportunity to work with renowned musician and producer Antonio Gramentieri, in the region his Italian ancestors hailed from (including his great, great grandfather, the lion-tamer), go here.
Every Song a Picture
‘Pictures’ is exactly that…songs painting a snapshot of emotions, desires, events, relationships. Owens does this so well, documenting life in song, put to music that helps paint the picture. This album seems very personal, – not surprising perhaps given the songs were written during the COVID pandemic. It’s a long way from the desert noir and Americana of his previous releases Sinner’s Shrine and El Tiradito, with a more stripped back, reflective tone. Deans says of making the record:
This album was such a joy to make, during some very difficult times. From East Lothian to East Nashville. It very much feels like a band record to me. Although we weren’t able to be together in the same room physically, I feel we were very much connected by our hearts and souls. I love working with Will and Neilson and I think that really comes across on this record
My favourite tracks
My favourites on the album? The opening track Hills of Home is a nostalgic look back at home and family, community. It’s a lovely subdued acoustic number with Dean’s voice drawing out the melody and the emotion in the song. ‘Sometime’ is definitely vying for #1 on my favourites list at the moment. Have a look and listen to the video below, and see if you don’t agree. It is achingly beautiful, testament to the principle of less is more.
Dairy Cemetery has a kind of Faces/ Ronnie Lane vibe, Lane being a favourite of all three musicians. Dean really has turned whistling into an art form and again here, it fits in seamlessly with the song. Add a smidge of honky tonk piano provided by Will, and also Amy Geddes on violin, both building on the character of this song. It’s another classic Owens track and I like it a lot. Buffalo River takes us in a different direction, with a bit of Nashville creeping in. It’s catchy with some deft harmonising too.
‘Friend, Pictures and In My Dreams are reflective and emotive, with a touch of melancholy overlaying them but there is hopefulness too.. All imbued with Owens talent for bringing emotions to the fore with his intense resonant vocals and innate sense of melody, with the addition of Will and Neilson’s talents, perfect. Neilson says of Dean’s voice:
Dean’s voice hangs in the air like a bird flying majestically through the sky. It’s the thing that always stops me in my tracks after hearing one note. It’s the thing that makes me say “yes I’m in” each time a new project is conjured.
Every track on the album has a story to tell, whether it be from Dean’s personal life and experiences or his keen observations of the world around him. Dean, Will and Neilson’s camaraderie is clear, understanding exactly how to paint the lyrics musically, choosing just the right instrument or harmonies for each moment, and the whistling too is always perfectly placed.
A Unique Opportunity
The album is available as a global digital release, and also a special limited edition CD to help raise funds to get Dean and his band The Sinners to the prestigious Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City in February 2024, where they have been invited to perform an Official Showcase. You can hear about this from Dean in the video below as he battles against Babet, a major storm in Scotland late October. You can visit his crowdfunder page to contribute and help Dean and The Sinners realise this fantastic opportunity.
This is usually where I pull together a few last words about the music and the artist. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you already know how much I admire this Scottish troubadour and his music. So, I’ll just say this:
‘Pictures’ is another wonderful album in Dean Owens’ musical journey, and a must have for your collection.
Buy the album.
Support the artist.
…there’s rarely been an artist more deserving of this mantra.