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Dan Owen - Stay Awake With Me (Album Review)

Thursday, 30 August 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

Courtesy of a period that saw commercially-minded, and often painfully bland, singer-songwriters dominating the airwaves, the very label is enough to inspire a healthy amount of cynicism these days. But Dan Owen’s debut album is a stellar example of how the genre can, in the right hands, be both radio friendly and artistically satisfying.

First and foremost, ‘Stay Awake With Me’ is full of well written and arranged songs that siphon inspiration from a variety of styles and eras. Whether it’s What Is A Man’s triumphant big band pop anthemics, the tender harmonica-spiced balladry of Fall Like A Feather or Splinter’s epic, choir-enhanced finale, each track effortlessly flows forward with vintage grace, climaxing in instantly memorable choruses.

Despite that classic feel the record also boasts plenty of sharp modern pop beats and contemporary backing vocals that, along with sparkling chart-ready instrumentation, will be right at home on today’s radio stations.

It’s this captivating combo of old school craftsmanship and modern-day production values that makes ‘Stay Awake With Me’ such a fresh, yet timeless listen.

Over that accessible sonic sheen Owen’s lyrics – although occasionally touching on standard romantic tropes – often address deeper, more interesting issues. Icarus may sound like a soaring festival anthem but its dark narrative alludes to debilitating substance abuse. Likewise, Made To Love You initially resembles a lighter-waving break up song, except it’s actually about domestic abuse.

Elsewhere, the intensely angst-ridden blues-rocker Hideaway recalls an accident that partially blinded Owen in one eye while he was training to be a carpenter. The raw, piano led title track is delivered from the perspective of the singer’s grandmother as she watched her husband of 50 years pass away. Songs like these mark Owen out as an artist of substance.

Although the album suffers the odd wobble, even its weaker numbers have their charms. Parachute may sail into beige mainstream territory, but it gives the record’s second half an uplifting effervescence that counterbalances some weightier moments. Call My Name doesn’t really say anything or go anywhere, but it’s peppy filler that unleashes a testifying gospel blues-stomp full of infectious rhythmic power.

Of all the qualities this album possesses, Owen’s vocal prowess will undoubtedly steal the headlines. Having learned his trade playing nearly 200 gigs a year, where he earned the nickname ‘Blues Boy Dan’ by belting out classic Delta covers, he knows how to get inside the feeling of a song. His tone, range and control are outstanding, but there’s a huge degree of humanity in his delivery that imbues every lyric with a level of empathy and conviction most singer-songwriters can only dream of mustering.

This is a very strong opening statement from an artists who isn’t just the complete package, but also someone who has the potential to get even better.  If he continues to mature at this rate and iron out the kinks, it’s frightening – in the best possible way – to imagine just how special Owen could become.

Dan Owen Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu October 04 2018 - LIVERPOOL Leaf Cafe
Fri October 05 2018 - KENDAL Kendal Library
Sat October 06 2018 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Cluny
Mon October 08 2018 - EDINBURGH Mash House
Tue October 09 2018 - GLASGOW King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
Wed October 10 2018 - MANCHESTER The Deaf Institute
Fri October 12 2018 - LEEDS Wardrobe
Sat October 13 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Castle and Falcon
Sun October 14 2018 - BRIGHTON Hope & Ruin
Mon October 15 2018 - BRISTOL Louisiana
Wed October 24 2018 - LONDON 100 Club

Click here to compare & buy Dan Owen Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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