Less than a year after the release of ‘Existential Frontiers’, White Owl Red have released another album ‘Afterglow’ and unfortunately it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor. White Owl Red is basically singer/songwriter Josef McManus and some unnamed musicians who play the usual alt-country/Americana instruments such as Dobro, pedal steel, squeezebox, drums, bass and the occasional twangy guitar.
Most of the ten tracks are just a little dull, pedestrian and not very memorable. There are a couple that stand out from the rest but unfortunately these are few and far between. ‘I Walk The Line For You’ sees McManus channelling his inner Johnny Cash with its ‘Ring Of Fire’ resonances and some delightful pedal steel. As McManus himself says, “The song references the legendary relationship of Johnny Cash and June Carter (as well as Vivian Liberto the first wife of Johnny Cash and the woman he pledged to remain faithful to in his song ‘I Walk the Line’). It uses Cash’s relationships as a starting point to reflect upon the challenges that arise as a man must grapple with life choices, personal demons, fidelity and the efforts needed to make true love last”. The other standout is ‘Tip Top Bob’s’ which is almost a novelty song with echoes of Squeeze’s 1979 hit ‘Cool For Cats’. It tells the tale of the odd characters and misfits who frequent Tip Top Bob’s bar-room. As it says in the song, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”.
As for the other eight tracks, they’re all a bit dull and plod along without ever getting the pulse racing. The only track that has some life and pace to it is the folky, sea shanty-ish ‘Out On The Waters’ which is a bit of fun driven along by some excellent squeezebox.
AUK said about ‘Existential Frontiers’ that it was the perfect album for playing in your car on a long road trip. If you tried that with ‘Afterglow’, you might just fall asleep at the wheel!