Matt Owens & The Delusional Vanity Project “Way Out West”

Urby Records, 2024

Guitar is the star as Mr Owens goes from strength to strength.

After packing away Noah and the Whale, Matt Owens went his merry way as a solo troubadour. A couple of critically acclaimed albums followed before 2022’s ‘Beer For The Horses’ saw the formation of The Delusional Vanity Project, a 7-piece band that trades in big, bold guitar-led rock alongside Owens’ clever and wide-ranging songwriting.

This second album under the DVP banner is the aptly titled ‘Way Out West’ which is a nod both towards the Twickenham store where Owens bought his first electric guitar and a reference to his migration to Bath and to how this relocation was judged by his fellow Londoners at the time.  Appropriately enough the new album references this journey right at the start with ‘One For The Grapes’, a song about the residency that Owens and his band set up in Bath’s liveliest pub. With a searing guitar riff from the off, the song features Robert Vincent on blues harmonica and a blistering solo to conclude.

With a similarly big, bold chorus-driven slice of guitar rock to follow on ‘Glasgow City Lights’ it seems at this point that the pace and tempo of the album has been set. ‘5 Years Into Marriage’ disabuses us of this notion. Owens’ back-and-forth duet with Hannah White here is a huge body swerve change of pace and tone. It is more Beautiful South rather than the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers feel that infuses much of the album. It also hints towards an album that is more fluid in terms of tone and style than those first couple of tracks would suggest.

At almost eight minutes ‘Blindsided By Time’ stands out as the most ambitious song on the album. A mellow, near two-minute intro of guitar and keys leads into a reflective look back and musings on the passing of time “In the night the kids had grown and I’d never felt so alone. My body’s not yet failing me, but there’s flaws to this skin and bone’. The track is then bookended by a gorgeous and masterful guitar solo that, if you are a breathing, sentient being, makes the hair on the back of your neck stand to attention.

There are other highlights; ‘Both Sides Of The Line’ is probably the most radio-friendly track on the album and features yet more great guitar work while ‘Hope The Darkness Pulls You Through’ has Keiron Marshall, who regularly guests throughout and here steps up for another exquisite guitar solo.

Final song ‘Twickenham Station’ brings the ‘Way Out West’ reference full circle with its hark back to Owens’ roots and the influences that got it all started for him. It is an acoustic, low key way to bring a fine album to a close as a wistful Owens reflects “If only I’d known, but maybe I always knew, I finally got out, now I miss those streets where I grew.

8/10
8/10

About Peter Churchill 176 Articles
Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana. Devotee of the 'small is beautiful' school of thought when it comes to music venues.
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