“New York Hummingbird” – Dean Owens
By way of introduction, let me say that I’ve always been wound up by people who say that no good music was made after the Beatles, the Clash, the Specials, Nirvana and so on. There’s always plenty of good music about and usually a fair amount of great music; you just have to know where to look and listen (and it’s not daytime Radio 1). This album was a recommendation from a friend of mine in Edinburgh who I met a few weeks ago (Cheers Grant). Dean Owens is one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets and it’s about time someone shone a spotlight on this great songwriting and performing talent.
“New York Hummingbird” is the latest solo album (he was formerly part of cult legends The Felsons) and I hope this is the one that helps him break through to a bigger audience. It’s difficult to pin this selection of songs down to 1 genre other than singer-songwriter but the common factor is quality in the construction of the songs and the playing of the musicians. The album is partly fan-financed, but this doesn’t mean that any corners have been cut in the playing, production or arrangements; every song gets exactly the treatment it needs to make it shine.
“No-One’s a Failure” has a pure country feel with a lyric on the theme of making the most of what we have while we still have it, which makes the most of Dean’s voice at the higher , plaintive end of its range. I listened to “The One that Got Away” several times before I finally worked out that the production sounded like George Harrison around the time of “All Things Must Pass” (a very, very good thing in my opinion) and a lyric about those missed romantic opportunities that we’ve all had. “Lost Time” is in the same vein but with a bouncy feel that makes me think this could be a singalong live favourite in time.
“Baby Fireworks” is a standout track for me. It’s probably the most personal song on the album, dealing with the responsibilities of having a baby daughter, watching her grow up and knowing when to start loosening the ties of parenthood; a difficult experience and an even more difficult songwriting challenge. “Snowglobe” turns the Christmas stereotypes upside down with a tale of captivity in a bad Christmas moment which lyrically reminded me a little of Malcolm Middleton’s “Burst Noel” (maybe it’s a Scottish thing).
The title track “New York Hummingbird” is a final highlight and a great example of the songwriter’s art. The song deals with the end of a relationship by looking at the way the music collection is divided up along strictly gender stereotype lines. You can have your own bit of fun by deciding which singer-songwriters are being referenced in the choruses. There isn’t a bad song on the album, so I apologise for not featuring all of them but you can hear all of them on Spotify and I really think that you should do that.
One final thing. It’s not on this album, but you should really listen to “Raining in Glasgow” as well. It’s a great song, what more do you want me to say?