Making a Scene Presents On the Scene with Scotland troubadour Dean Owens – On the Road in the USA
It’s interesting how we come to hear about great artists. Especially when they are not typically played on national television or radio. We find them because we hear their name mentioned by an artist we follow, or a favorite blogger with a good ear for music, or by following makingascene.org. Dean Owens is widely hailed as one of UK’s finest troubadours. When Dean showcased at the prestigious Americanafest in Nashville, I knew I had to keep an ear out. I didn’t want to miss his next US tour. I finally got my opportunity. I’m hooked.
Dean Owens is an Americana artist. This means his music is hard to quantify in one genre. His music has been described as combining celtic and Americana into a unique blend of celtic spirit, country soul, with the enthusiasm of early rock’n’roll coupled with the sympathetic delivery of folk’s storytellers. Dean Owens is currently on the last leg of a two-month tour in the USA, performing a mix of shows, partnering up with Will Kimbrough, Wild Ponies, Buffalo Blood and The Two Tracks, with gigs taking him from Florida to Chicago, Virginia, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville and Indiana to South Dakota, Wyoming and California, and many points in between. I was able to catch up with him at several of these shows. In the fall I caught his show at the Albino Skunk Music Festival in South Carolina, where he got a standing ovation and immediate invitation for a return visit, I was back for that second show in the spring.
The Albino Skunk Festival has been on my radar for at least ten of its twenty-five years, but I’d never been able to go. Festival founder Glynn “Zig” Ziegler has a great ear for music. He has this little boutique festival tucked into a back corner of bustling Greenville South Carolina. I’m awed by the national acts that play this festival. When I saw that Dean’s tour included The Albino Skunk Festival, I made it happen. The tour popped up fast and at the last-minute, Zig booked Dean for the festival sight-unseen. Dean was granted a last-minute spot at the early morning stage on what would normally be in light attendance. Dean was traveling with a Nashville duo the Wild Ponies. The campers woke as the sound of Dean Owens and the Wild Ponies echoed through the festival. The seats quickly filled and the buzz from that performance reverberated through the festival for the remainder of the day. Dean won the award for traveling the farthest to the festival stealing that victory from The Two Tracks who traveled from Sheridan Wyoming. It was their first time at the festival as well. They found a kinship in Dean Owens. For his last leg of this tour Dean and The Two Tracks are touring together in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Check the website, (deanowens.com) for information about those shows, I’m still trying to figure a way to go myself.
Dean Owens played selections from his new album Southern Wind and a few selections from his albums Into the Sea and Cash Back. Dean chose to tour with the Wild Ponies’ Doug and Telisha Williams because Telisha is a badass upright bass player and Doug is a force on guitar. No slouch with acoustic guitar himself, Dean played rhythm guitar leaving the hot licks to the ponies while he drove home the stories. Both Dean and the Wild Ponies were immediately signed for the next festival. I knew where I would be.
It was fortuitous Zig signed Dean for the spring festival as “Southern Wind”, written with Skunk Festival veteran Will Kimbrough, just took home the U.K. Song Of The Year. For the festival, Deans performance reminded us why he was asked back. Not that we needed reminding, the Skunk audience sang and danced along with every song. We might not have known his music in the fall, but we knew him now. Festival-goers were clambering up front this time for Deans performance. Clouds threatened rain all afternoon but the skunkers were undeterred. When Dean sang his award-winning “Southern Wind”, he blew the clouds away. What a great performance and song. I’m sorry you missed it.
I’ve been a fan of Chicago’s Black Dog House Concerts for as many years as I’ve been a fan of Albino Skunk Festival and Dean Owens. When I found myself having to drive through Chicago on an errand, I checked the concert scene. Not only was Black Dog kicking off their season, Dean Owens was performing. This goofy ol’ world sure spun in my favor this trip. Black Dog hosts Van DeLisle and Karin McCool are pretty hip. Jack is the current Black dog rescue in residence and every available surface in the home is filled by the artwork of artists they support. I know about Black Dog House Concerts because my favorite artists play there. Dean was the perfect fit.
The stage area was an alcove looking out on the tree-lined streets. This was a solo show. Van set the stage with characters depicted in some of Deans songs. The magical thing about house concerts is that you don’t necessarily have to know the artists performing. The host is someone with a good ear, and the intimate evening is one you will cherish for its sense of community and great music. If you didn’t know Dean Owens prior to the show, the paintings on stage of Johnny Cash and Mohammed Ali, (by artist Tim Hooper) and Elvis, (by artist Grace Kelly Laster) will provide a sense of what serve as muses for Dean’s songs. Dean put on a great show to a capacity, energetic crowd. People fell in love with Deans stories and his charm. This was his first show at Black Dog House Concerts, it certainly won’t be his last. Van and Karin will squeeze you in, you won’t want to miss it.
You might be catching on to the fact that everywhere he’s been, Dean Owens is making a scene. He has a few more shows on this run, (deanowens.com). Catch his show. You’ll be glad you did. Hopefully I’ll see you there.
– Viola Krouse