A year and a half since his first solo release ‘Aliens’ and Owensie is back to offer us more guitar strumming finery with its successor ‘Citizens’. The debut was a graceful display of acoustic guitar backed by eloquent and moving lyrics. This simplistic combination worked wonderfully well, but at times was a little too repetitive. ‘Citizens’, however, offers us much more. Collaborations from other artists allow for a greater diversity between tracks without losing the great qualities that ‘Aliens’ possessed.
Hang Your Head Low opens the album with a heavy marching percussion beat and flows seamlessly from folky guitar to electric blues before breaking into white noise. You can see here etchings of the distorted guitars of Owensie’s past at work. The bossa nova style influences are not lost completely though as seen in Distance of Her Love. The injection of both brass and strings in the form of viola and saxophone here add another dimension to Owensie’s work. This increased variation in musical arrangement is exactly what ‘Aliens’ was crying out for and is a welcome improvement.
Lyrics which deal with reflection of one self and what surrounds you dominate and are particularly articulate and stirring in Circle of Lies. Constantly speaking of what we believe from our environments and what is fabricated, “Improvised deceptions of magnitude, it’s all down to what you except as true”. Circle of Lies becomes the stand out track, merging all the most enjoyable elements of this album; rattling guitar, light percussion, evocative lyrics with interludes of beautiful brass and string accompaniments.
Guitar fades into the background of many of the songs, vocals and in particular the viola is then brought to the fore, which is a bold move that pays rich dividends. This is displayed wonderfully in Rogue Trader, which is the finest example of Owensie’s vocal ability. His voice echoes in sync with the instruments to flow together in one smooth motion.
The album is, on a whole, an uplifting affair that you can really sit back and enjoy. It creates a stirring ambience that feels personalised and almost like a private experience. There’s an increased vigour to Owensie and perhaps an added confidence to explore new avenues and collaborate. He hasn’t lost any of his own identity, merely added to it. A fine piece of work and more than worthy of a listen.
If you’d like to catch Owensie, he’ll be holding the ‘Citizens’ album launch in The Unitarian Church on St.Stephen’s Green on October 26th.