For most folk Dean Owens’ most familiar work will be It’s Raining in Glasgow, a song that is regularly trotted out on Radio Scotland. For a song that is indelibly linked with our dreich melancholia it was surprising to find that it was recorded in Tennessee as part of the album Whisky Hearts. Forsaking Nashville this time Owens has set his sights on New York where most of this album was recorded. Other than the recording location however there’s little here that relates to the Big Apple apart from the occasional street name checks on a few of the songs. Instead what we have is a collection of well crafted melodic pop songs that are layered with a production that does shine but which threatens at times to overwhelm the project.
Wander On for example could be a fine soulful effort but the clunky guitar and over the top backing vocals rob it of any intimacy. For the most part here the simpler the better. Desert Star which opens the album is a decent enough song which ripples with layered guitars and shimmering vocals. No One’s A Failure has that effortless way with a melody that the late Gerry Rafferty possessed and although it might be somewhat fanciful to think so there’s even a slight vocal similarity to the late Humblebum. Harmonica and perhaps ocarina add a slight folky touch to what is our favourite song here. The lazy stumble of Springtime could hark back to the laid back New York coolness of John Sebastian as it meanders along. The addition of Kendall Jane Meade duetting with Owens is the icing on the cake here. Solo (Valentine NYC) is the one song here that does reflect the feelings of being cast adrift in a strange town and could become as much a radio favourite as Raining in Glasgow. Overall however there’s a sense that the New York tag is driven primarily by the opportunity Owens had to spend time there and that if he had a kick ass hometown band then the album would have had some more bite to it.
No One’s A Failure