Over the years we’ve played the music of Dean Owens and followed his various recording adventures. At last year’s UK Americanas Dean won best UK song for Southern Wind. You can now find the song on Dean’s new ‘Best Of’ record, ‘The Man From Leith.‘
I decided to have a chat with Dean via email over the last week and it was great to catch up. I was interested to know more about the songs we’re hoping to feature on the show this week. One of Dean’s best known tracks, ‘Raining In Glasgow‘ always seemed to me to be a homesick song.
‘I was on tour in Australia. I started writing it sitting outside the Sydney Opera House, just as the sun was going down and finished it sitting in a coffee shop on Sauchiehall Street during Celtic Connections.’ Dean told me. ‘It was really just me missing home and my family and thinking about some of my favourite musical experiences. Most of which seemed to have taken place in Glasgow, rather than my hometown of Edinburgh. I was even missing the rain.’
It’s a lovely tale about a song which has always intrigued. A few years ago Radio Scotland’s Celtic Connections trailer used the song as its theme music for the festival. Given it all happens in January, this seemed very apt. I asked Dean more about his love for country and Americana, not least because he’s even recorded his own album of Johnny Cash favourites.
Back in the early 90’s when I was still in my wee pop band Smile I was given a couple of records by our then manager (Ronnie Gurr) and one from Bert Muirhead who had the legendary Hot Wax Records on Dalry Road in Edinburgh. Ronnie gave me Gram Parsons GP and Grievous Angel. A double cd if I recall correctly and probably one of my first cd’s, plus a copy of The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall. Bert gave me an old vinyl copy of Hank Williams Greatest Hits. When I heard songs like She, Brass Buttons, Waiting For The Sun and Ramblin’ Man I was hooked. There’s the sound of what we now call Americana right there in those records.
He’s also spent a fair amount of time in Nashville and I wondered what this man from Leith made of the place when he first went over?
I love Nashville. I was very lucky with my introduction to the city. My first visit was at the invitation of my dear friend Paul Deakin, drummer with The Mavericks. I’d toured the UK with my band The Felsons opening for The Mavericks. This was when they were huge and playing stadiums. Paul told me that I had to visit him in Nashville, so I did. This would have been around 1999 or 2000. Paul and the other Mavericks guys took me under their wing and showed me around and introduced me to all the right people. It was crazy for this guy from Leith to be staying with Paul and his wife at their lovely home and out at Trisha Yearwood and Robert Reynold’s guest house in Hendersonville (their next door neighbours were Johnny and June) and hanging with people who’s records I owned. I met people like JD Souther, Ray Kennedy, did some co-writing and played a few shows with some of The Mavericks backing me. It was a crazy time. Nashville has always felt like a place of opportunity for me and it has some great people living and working there. I have many wonderful friends there now who also just happen to be incredible musicians.
Finally the song which is my real favourite of Dean’s extensive catalogue: Dora.
My nephew did a school project on our family tree many years back. Before schools had proper access to the internet. Most of the info he found was from word of mouth, but we did find out that my Granny Dora had indeed been born into the Salvona’s Circus family and that her grandfather Ambrose who came from Italy and started the circus had been a lion tamer. Other information said that when he died he’d been buried somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. One of the pictures my nephew did unearth was of one of the old Salvona’s Circus posters that listed some of the acts involved. This was my inspiration to write the song.