One of the best albums of the first half of 2019, Owen-Glass’s ‘The Rope & The Rabbit’ keeps on giving; each song is better than the last. Delicious, hushed harmonies hover above folk-pop arrangements that stay consistent in mood throughout. The result is a mesmerizing, hazy mix of lazy, jazzy-funk dreamscapes filtered through an East Texas awareness of gospel, blues, country, and soul. Imagine members of the War on Drugs jamming with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on some 13th Floor Elevators deep tracks.
Owen-Glass is centred around the team of singer-songwriter Kelly Wayne Conley and guitarist Cole Humphrey. They’re fleshed out by David Beck, Dees Stribling, Craig Conley, Anthony Earl, and Eric Ostberg on bass, drums, keys, saxophone and violin, respectively. (Even Kelly’s mother Donna Conley and his aunt, Stacy Caldwell of the 1980s East Texas gospel trio The Armstrong Sisters, handle back-up vocals on the bluesy, smoky, ‘Leave it Alone’.)
The thematic scope and flawless execution apparent on ‘The Rope & The Rabbit’ belies the fact that it’s Owen-Glass’s debut album, and highlights abound. The politically-charged ‘Paper Chains’ grooves along like George Clinton conducting the coda to ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ while the deceptively cheerful pop-bounce of ‘This Room’ hooks you and doesn’t let go. On the country-folk side, the clever ‘Devil Don’t Mind’ gives the devil his due, so-to-speak, over a Neil Young ‘Harvest’-era groove. Light reggae is the foundation for ‘General Butler’ while ‘Saint’ recalls the trippy garage-band psychedelia of groups like the Chocolate Watchband awash in reverb and wah-wah.
With ‘The Rope & The Rabbit,’ Owen-Glass has set a pretty high standard for themselves – one they can surely meet or exceed next time. It’ll be a pleasure watching them do just that.