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White Owl Red White Owl Red
Album: Afterglow
Label: Hush Mouse
Tracks: 11

The musical alias of San Francisco singer/songwriter Josef McManus, this is his fourth album, one exploring love, loss and redemption. Bizarrely echoing Hot Chocolate's 'You Sexy Thing' in its melody line, the title track affords a strong opening with a walking beat rhythm, a slight Dylanish drawl to the vocal and a simple but catchy chorus.

Pedal steel appears on the simple strum of 'Hold On, but the song doesn't really develop much on the initial impression, so it's up to the scurrying, harmonica brushed 'Hell and the Blues' to recapture interest, something it does with effortless ease. The traintime rhythm recalls the staple template of Johnny Cash and, wouldn't you know, he and wife June are the subject of the telecaster motored 'Walk The Line (For You), dropping in a reference to 'Ring of Fire in a song about the choices needed to be made and the demons to be confronted to sustain a relationship.

Things remain uptempo on the legslapping banjo and brushed snares romp of 'Out On The Waters' and the bass throbbing 'Tip Top Bob's' with its more punky indie rock propulsion, but it's the slower material that burns brighter on the likes of the dobro-flecked regret of 'Through Is Through' and the the denser keyboard and guitar arrangement of 'Wake Up'.

It ends with a twang on 'Working Class Heroes', another echo of Dylan and a dash of Bruce in a celebration of working men and women coming together to resist oppression and fight or their rights and "stand up for truth, love and dignity". A somewhat varied collection in terms of song quality perhaps, but there's enough strength here to warrant your interest.

Mike Davies