“No Man’s Land” EP – Dean Owens

4 stars (out of 5)

4

No Man's Land TitleIt’s been a while since the last Dean Owens record, but that doesn’t mean he’s been doing nothing; far from it. Apart from the regular live shows (solo and with Deer Lake) and producing the wonderful Ags Connolly debut album, “How About Now”, he’s also been in Nashville recording his next album “Into the Sea” to be released next year on Drumfire Records. As a little taster for that album, the “No Man’s Land” EP is released on November 10. The timing of the release is significant as the subject matter of two of the songs is the effect of war on ordinary, everyday people.

“Closer to Home” was inspired by a letter written by a soldier returning from the First World War and deals with emotions of returning from a situation where terrible things have happened and the difficulty of dealing with the approaching reconciliations. The verses are sparsely delivered with mainly acoustic guitar backing while the choruses bring in the full band including accordion and a beautifully simple but effective piano hook.

“Seed the Roses” is much more sombre, minor-key piece dealing with the horrors and brutality of human conflict but still carrying the underlying message that, ultimately, flowers will grow on the battlefield. Harrowing, but a superb song all the same. “Forgotten Shadows”, co-written with Neilson Hubbard, is a bitter-sweet reminiscence of a perfect day and another reminder of the transience of human life.

The closing track on the EP is a solo live version of “Lost Time” from Dean’s cracking “New York Hummingbird” album. It’s one of my favourite songs from that album (although, to be fair, they’re all great songs) and it works well with only Dean’s acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The message is simple: ‘You can’t make up for lost time’.

It’s fair to say that the subject matter suits Dean’s song-writing style (as he says himself, somewhere between melancholy and miserable) and the war songs are powerful and, in turn, thought-provoking and disturbing. As a bonus, the cover art, from an original painting by Edinburgh-based artist and photographer, Philip Braham, captures the mood of the EP perfectly. It’s not an easy listen at times, but it is a rewarding one.

Out November 10  on Drumfire Records.