You might not be expecting an 81 year old poet from the border of Wales to have produced a pure country album. And you certainly would not be expecting it to sound this good.

Owen has published many volumes of his poetry and was the presenter on the BBC’s ‘Poetry Please’ for years. He heard a very young Ruby Turner and spent some time managing her career and through this link read an NME review of a country album by Tom T Hall, bought the album and fell in love with country music. He started to write songs – for his own amusement – and played them only to his close friends.

This is the first album he has ever released and it is through the efforts of his producer/arranger/keyboardsman/Svengali Ed Begley who put a band together to play the songs in the studio.

I have to say that the result is remarkably good – not because he is an 81 year old poet and not expected to do such things but because the songs are good, the melodies are fine, the stories he tells are delightful and the playing on the album is superb.

Vocally, I would put him somewhere in Willy Nelson territory – with nods to Johnny Cash - and the songs are the purest country, laden with pedal steel and gentle backing vocals. Bass and drums are laid back and do just enough to make the lyrics stand forward. As you might expect from a renowned poet, the way he constructs the lyrics is meaningful and leads you to the conclusion he aims for.

The element that amazes me about his music is the number of different voices he is capable of; the opening track, ‘Lady Whiskey’, has the dark depth of a young Johnny Cash while ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ has a much lighter tone – almost Val Doonican smooth.

My personal favourite is ‘Jesse James & The Barber’ where his voice has a Willie Nelson timbre, beautiful pedal steel and a stirring middle 8 and chorus.

All told, a lovely country album.


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