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Dean Owens Dean Owens
Album: Southern Wind
Label: At The Helm
Tracks: 12

The long-awaited follow-up to 2015's "Into The Sea" finally muscles its strident way into the collective conscience of the record-buying public, and there's no doubting on this evidence that Dean Owens "Southern Wind" has firmly catapulted him into the big league, where his song-writing craft can stand proudly shoulder to shoulder with the best around. Owens has always been a mercurial teller of stories, an advocate of stirring the wanderlust within and an acute observer (and often analyst) of the truth, and "Southern Wind" coalesces all of those inherent traits into a beautiful whole which ebbs and flows with a languid and often startling fluidity.

There are songs on this album that others would die for, whether it's the dobro-infused country heartache of "When The Whiskey's Not Enough" or the snarling soul blues of "No Way Around It", Owens' evocative vocal style envelopes all with an understated command that comes from experience, roads well travelled, and an innate song writing skill that allows gravity but also a wry sense of self-deprecating humour.

"The Last Song", which contrarily opens the album, seems destined to become Owens' live show closer for the (un)foreseeable future. A mix of sadness and joy, a buoyant and bright country rhythm that uplifts the heart, killer lead guitar licks, and a chorus ready to evoke a hundred voices in unison. Title track "Southern Winds" explores the themes of change further. A southern-blues-based swamp stomper, replete with dirty guitar, swirling keys, and full on choral attack. A song that reaches out from the speakers, cuffs you several times around the head, and demands that you listen. Such latent energy.

Songs such as "Elvis Was My Brother" and "Louisville Lip" show that Owens isn't afraid of a little introspection either. In fact, it is by laying bare his soul, and thereby elements of himself, that allows Owens to draw the listener in to his world. A great record is one that allows total immersion, one that can make you forget your troubles for a while, and one that concedes a connection with the artist, and on that count this album, and these songs collectively, make one such record.

There are some stellar US players right here, including award winning guitarist Will Kimbrough, but ultimately it is Owens and his songs that take centre stage.

"Southern Wind", on the evidence that these songs forcefully substantiate, is a landmark album in all areas. Every song has been wrought from the heart, every lyric torn from the spirit of the poet within. Albums like this don't come around too often in an artists career, so for now let's wallow in the glow of a songwriter at the top of his game.

Ken Brown