There’s a point in any good gig where the performer know the same thing as the audience. No one’s kidding each other. Everyone is having a good time and no one wants to go home. Like anything else it’s a piece of magical ephemera whose moment may pass at any second. In my experience it’s the point where the stage and the auditorium magically blend and the line between the two places seems to blur. Nothing has changed physically but everything has changed emotionally to make it seem like all things are possible. A few minutes later the house lights are on, the band are back in the dressing room the night is over. Nothing is left but a beautiful memory.
I looked up last night as Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts were getting towards the end of their set at The Glad Cafe and I realised that the moment described above had happened again. This time I was in the audience and I was aware of being in a happy communal throng caught up in a beautiful moment.
I haven’t always known Dean’s music and it’s really only since doing the AC that I became aware of him. Last night was the first proper Dean show I’ve seen live. It was great; really great. Self effacing and sometimes almost too reticent about his own voice, Dean’s show with his excellent band was a real joy because it took me (and everyone else in that magical space) on beautiful and very visceral journeys. On ‘The Man From Leith’ his poignant tribute to his father he sang the words:
You were the first one to show me the Highlands and Muhammad Ali, And when I too became a boxer you were there for me, Now I travel these same Highland roads with my music…’
It was at the end that I reflected to my brother in law what we’d both enjoyed about it. It was the fact that we had been at an evening where the songs had taken us somewhere we didn’t expect to go. They were important stories; important because they shared something about the singer’s life and love – and it doesn’t really get any more important than that for me.
On Tuesday night I’m going to play you a couple of songs that were real highlights from the show. One of which is from his excellent new album Into The Sea.
It will be a night celebrating song writers as we also host a new star of Nashville. Brandy Clark – grammy nominee and debutante artist whose ’12 Stories’ is exactly that. Great, difficult, funny and real story songs; you know the kind of thing – what we used to think country music actually was before it was taken over by loud-mouths driving trucks and believing their own mythology. If you don’t think you know Brandy’s music you probably know more than you think. She’s a key songwriting collaborator for Kacey Musgraves has had big hit songs with The Band Perry and Miranda Lambert. That was almost the whole story for a while till she summoned up the courage to self- release 12 Stories. The rest of the story you can hear this Tuesday. It’s a great session and conversation with one of the best voices and songwriters to come out of country in the last year.
Elsewhere we’ll have some fine old vinyl from Neil Young, something new and on 45 RPM from Caitlin Rose and 33RPM from Townes Van Zandt. Introduce you to Andy Shauf and play you a track from our good friend Annabelle Chvostek..(hope you like the new direction, as the Spinal tap boys once said)
We’ll do it all in two hours and we start on Tuesday evening at five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland.
What a fantastic blog and summation of the Dean Owens gig.
Beautifully orated there Ricky… you could have been writing another classic song yourself, such is the quality of your writing.
But a Dean Owens gig does that… it inspires. It moves. It can have you in tears, which then become cathartic.
I have seen Dean many a time in concert, with and without the band, going right back to the days of the Felsons.
My favourite moments have been in intimate house gigs where he has performed for up to 3 hours for 20 very lucky souls.
In every gig, whether supporting Eddi Reader or The Mavericks… or indeed a house gig, he has given his all, spending himself emotionally through his music, and generously investing in his audience.
If any artist deserves a bigger audience and to have his music heard, it is Dean.
Thank you for supporting him through AC.
Brian in EK
I can only reiterate what Brian says, Ricky – a lovely article that encapsulates the magic of a live gig. Dean is surely the one of the most under appreciated talents in the Scottish music scene but, sadly, we have way too many of them. However, I’ve been lucky enough to stage house concerts for two artists, both of whom are known to you, and that is Dean and also Davie Scott. Now, I’ve seen Dean and also the Pearlfishers more times than I care to remember but the intimacy and warmth of a house concert is hard to beat. Anyway, thanks for the article – it sums up perfectly the magical performance from Dean and the mighty Whisky Hearts. There’s a repeat performance in Edinburgh on Monday and I won’t be missing that one!
p.s. “Nothing has changed physically but everything has changed emotionally to make it seem like all things are possible” Absolutely!
Fine words about a fine singer-songwriter Ricky. When I first lived in Scotland in 1997 I worked in a bar called the Dug Wi Twa Tails in Edinburgh and Dean used to play there occasionally, which was a stroke of luck for me. I have been a fan of his ever since. I still think The Droma Tapes is one of Scotland’s most criminally overlooked albums. I haven’t seen him live for several years as I now live in Norway, but hopefully one of my trips to Scotland will coincide with another gig from Dean. I’ll certainly be buying the new album from Coda next time I get to Edinburgh.