Owen FitzGerald “A Deep Clean You Can Count On!”

Sleepy Cat Records, 2022

Alt-folk flavoured existential meanderings of the best kind from Durham, North Carolina.

Owen FitzGerald is yet another one of these hard-to-categorise musicians. I mean, what is anti-folk? You could say, ‘A deep clean you can count on’, is part alt-country. And I’ve seen chamber-folk mentioned – but what’s that then? (Okay, I googled it… I guess he fits in that category too… a bit.) Outsider-country? Yeah, you could definitely say that too. Anyway, you get the idea. Hard-to-categorise.

But is he any good? Yes. He’s very good. At times he can sound as sweet-voiced as Clem Snide or Scott Avett, at other times he can sound a little bit like Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle, or Bill Callahan, he could even remind you of the aching fragility of Mark Linkous. He can sing.

He also writes beautiful, perceptive, funny, sad songs. Like David Burman, or Jason Molina, Vic Chesnutt, or, again, Mark Linkous, FitzGerald has that remarkable talent of being able to stop you in your tracks with his words. And not just once or twice, but time and time again on this collection of nine songs that deal with subjects that include loss, existential aching, the gut-kicking misery of lost love, and even the secret language of animals and plants (yes, and it’s brilliant). ‘A deep clean you can count on!’ shares the same sort of thematic breadth and scale that The Felice Brothers achieved on last year’s, ‘From Dreams to Dust.’ And, like The Felice Brothers, FitzGerald is also comfortable with the most stripped-down, bare-bones arrangements, like the simple country strumming on, ‘All the Good Times Are Past and Gone’, right through to the wandering free-jazz on, ‘Forest Secrets (Hope on Pine Street).’

In FitzGerald’s own words, These nine songs are like school pictures. They are wallet-sized portraits taken between 2006 and 2016. The songs on “A deep clean you can count on!” are frightened, sad, confused, bewildered, dislocated, hopeful, and hopeless. They’re emotional snapshots.  Sometimes I can’t recognize myself in the songs. Other times I’m so swept up that I’m carried back in time by strong, old feelings. I’m hungover and doomed. I’m an unfixable thing that hurts other people. Whenever you find an old picture of yourself in a yearbook or a sock drawer I hope you feel happy to be where you are. More than anything else, that’s how this record makes me feel.I will listen to this album often.

Owen FitzGerald is different to all the artists mentioned above. But if you had to pick a category…

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