Dean Owens & The Southerners, Sounds In The Suburbs @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 15th December 2019

The irony of this cross border trio appearing in Glasgow in the wake of an election which saw England and Scotland diametrically opposed was not lost on Dean Owens tonight. The prankster in him surreptitiously arranged for the sold out crowd to chant the terrace anthem of ‘Cheerio, Cheerio’ as the actual southerners, Jim Maving and Tom Collison, joined him on stage. Seasoned troupers, they took it in their stride, humbly apologising for inflicting BJ on us and asking if they could stay up north permanently. This was of course, good-natured jousting, and it set the scene for a fabulous and good humoured show with lots of banter and audience interaction amidst the tremendous music the trio performed.

Owens is an inveterate collaborator and most of the audience had seen him in many guises but it has to said that this link up with stalwarts of the home counties based Americana scene is a winner. Through a combination of chance meetings at gigs, friend’s recommendations and a shared involvement with the AMAUK, Owens teamed up with Maving and Collison earlier this year, playing their first show one day after their first rehearsal for a short tour down south. Now they’ve ventured north and if tonight is any guide they’ll be welcomed back time and time again.

The show was primarily an opportunity for Owens to run through a list of his best known numbers (many requested by fans beforehand) in anticipation of a “Best Of” release early next year. It was fascinating to hear these songs remade and remodelled to suit the trio’s talents. Maving ripped out a couple of scathing solos on slide guitar and embellished all of the songs with some exquisite and delicate finger picking while Collison’s piano and organ contributions added a stately swell (often as he was playing bass at the same time).

As is his wont, Owens introduced many of the songs with an explanation of its origins, many of these rib tickling and evoking gales of laughter from the crowd and from his on stage compadres. But they were deadly serious when it came to the songs, opening with a tender rendition of ‘When The Whisky’s Not Enough’ replete with sublime slide guitar and piano. Likewise, ‘Anything Helps’ rippled away wonderfully while an unexpected cover of Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway’ was gobstoppingly excellent – Rafferty being a particular favourite of both Maving and Collison and who seemed thrilled to be playing it so close to his home.

Digging into the southern (American) roots of his songs, Owens gave us an ominous ‘Southern Wind’ with Maving’s guitar suitably snakelike while ‘Up On The Hill’ positively rocked,  ‘The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin’ had a full chicka boom sound and ‘Mother‘ was chockfull of retro sixties guitar licks from Maving. From his tenure in Buffalo Blood, Owens took us to the south west as he sang ‘Reservation’ with Maving on mandolin before he offered a master class in whistling on the Morricone like ‘Ghosts Of Wild Horses’ which was just sublime.

The evening whizzed by as the band ripped through stalwarts such as ‘The Man From Leith’, ‘The Last Song’ (which included snippets from Otis Redding and Tom Petty), ‘Dora’ and ‘Elvis Was My Brother’. Totally in tune with the audience, Owens dedicated a song to two of his biggest fans who couldn’t attend due to illness and invited all to film the song and send it to them. Urging all to sing along for much of the night, this came to fruition on the closing song, ‘Raining In Glasgow’. Here he hardly came close to the mic as the crowd took over, word perfect. Much respect from a Glasgow audience to a man from that other place then.

This was somewhat magical. In Maving and Collison, Owens has happened upon some seriously sympatico musicians and the trio could not be faulted. They promise to return in the New Year so if you have a chance to see them do yourself a favour and go along. This was this reviewer’s last show of this decade and it just happened to be one of the happiest and most life affirming shows of the year. Haste ye back Southerners.

Author: Paul Kerr

Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.

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