CD Review – Kenny Owens “Walking in St. James”
Kenny Owens’ long and paved musical journey to his debut CD, Walking in St. James, is more a history lesson in country music than a bonafide collectible, but it probably should be.
After all, he honed his musical chops playing bass alongside the likes of Buddy Miller, Leroy Parnell, John Belushi, The Bellamy Brothers, the Hagar twins (Hee Haw anyone?), and even Bill Monroe, at places like New York’s Lone Star Cafe, where Owens was just one of many rotating members of the numerous house bands.
The legendary cafe alone is recognizable not only for the great Texas acts that have graced its small stage (the roof of the building was recognizable by the 40-foot spiny iguana sculpture by none other than Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade), but this was also a place where late nights back-in-the-day could spur a guitar showdown between Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison at a 1 a.m. impromptu.
So it should come as no surprise that when Owens decided to trade in his bass for a six-string and his own microphone, he would up wind up with an eclectic mix, everything from mellow country to southern rock grooves. It begs the question, if it’s Southern and it rocks, is it Southern rock? But alas, Owens actually hails from just outside of Nashville (that’s Trashville to us Texans) but is steadily making his way across the heartland of America.
The history lesson ends here.
The minute Owens and his band of Backburners takes the stage, gear heads and poetry alums alike wake up and take notice. The first thing you notice is that Owens’ guitar-welding sidekick, Bebo Whitehead, is playing his six-string upside down. A clear case of a left-handed boy who picked up a right-handed guitar at a young age just because he wanted to play…and it just stuck.
This coupled with upbeat and catchy tracks like “Hard Times” and the Bluegrass stylings of “Ballad of Bodean Hardin” makes one wonder why these guys ever left Nashville. Owens even manages a throw back to the bluesy-side of the British Invasion with everything from amped-up Vox amps to Hammond organs complete with swirling Leslies.
Maybe you caught him at Houston’s Cactus Music in-store, but if not, he’s coming soon to an impromptu roadhouse jam near you…