Richie Owens and The Farm Bureau- Country Boogie By Way of Manassas
by Terry Roland
Listening to Richie Owens and The Farm Bureau, it’s as if Stills’ vision of an eclectic band combining acoustic and electric instruments with singer-songwriter based tunes laced with extended jams and instrumental muscle while breaking all of the rules of genre fixations, has come to life again. This is Richie’s intent while bringing along his own creative lessons well-learned from a storied musical Tennessee childhood into his adult career fleshing out his own passion for American music in all it’s southern glory. In Farm We Trust is a consistent, well-produced fire-brand of an album of southern rock that is as entertaining as it is energizing. After my interview with Richie at the recent Americana Music Association conference in Nashville, it became clear that his enthusiasm is infectious both through his music and conversation.
TR: How did you get started in music?
RO: Through my family. Our background in music can be traced back to the Civil War through my great, great, great grandfather. He was one of the musicians portrayed in Cold Mountain, the fiddler player. That fiddle was passed down to my grandfather. Now it’s in the Dollywood Museum because she’s a relative, my cousin. My grandfather and all of his brothers and sisters all played music. They played fiddles, guitars, mandos, autoharps. My dad wrote songs for Kitty Wells. When I was kid I listened to all kinds of music; country, folk, rock and a lot of acoustic music. So, I was writing music. When I went to California, I’d write music for television like Eye on L.A., L.A. After Dark and Countdown to the Grammys. I also did engineering and producing. I worked as an engineer on The Georgia Satellites album with “Keep Your Hands To Yourself,” on it. I also produced Dolly’s album, Hungry Again.
RO: That was during the days I was out performing. I used to play at this Iris pub there in L.A. called Molly Malone’s. People loved what were doing. It was more in a folk-rock style. We got some really good responses. Then,I was doing a lot of acoustic playing, using my dobro. That led to being hired by the music companies as as a product specialist. I was going to places like McCabe’s and The Folk Music Center. The company would pay me to go to McCabe’s with their store people and do in store performance to help generate sales. From that I got my own Washburn Signature Model Mandolin.
TR: Good gig for an instrumentalist.
RO: I’m doing it maybe a little different than some people have done it in the past. I got kids and I gotta pay my bills. It gave me the opportunity to do what I’m doing now. And now I have my CD.
TR: I see where you’ve done a lot of guitar work for professionals. Did you work with Ben Harper while you were in Claremont?
RO: I saw Ben a lot. I actually built some lap steels for him while I was out there. Eventually, I built my own line of guitars called Owens Resonators and Slide Guitars. Bob Weir plays one of my guitars and Nil Lofgren. It’s on the Internet on their gear list
TR: So you have a factory?
RO: I’m influenced by folk rock, old timey country and roots rock stuff. I ‘ve always been influenced by Neil Young and Manassas. You’ll hear Stephen Stills influence in my music. Al Perkins, who played with them, is a friend and works with me a lot.