Dean Owens: The Magic of Celtic Connections
In anticipation of his Celtic Connections gig, we’re delighted to have a guest blog from Dean Owens, one of Scotland’s finest singer songwriters. His fans include Irvine Welsh who called Dean “Scotland’s most engaging and haunting singer songwriter”. Legendary BBC broadcaster “Whispering” Bob Harris reckons that Dean is “Scotland’s best troubadour”.
In 2017 Dean was the first Scottish musician (and so far the only one) to officially showcase at Nashville’s prestigious Americanafest. His music has taken him all over the world, from his earliest days with Scotland’s first Americana band the Felsons to his recent US tour where he headlined at Levitt Shell in Memphis (the same stage where Elvis played his first paid gig). The title track from Southern Wind, his highly praised 7th solo album, is currently nominated for UK Song of the Year at the Americana Music Association UK Awards.
Over to Dean…
I’ve so many great memories of Celtic Connections. I’ve been lucky enough to perform there numerous times over the years. In fact my song Raining In Glasgow was inspired by the festival in many ways. I’d started the song while on tour in Australia. I recall sitting by the Sydney Opera House and really missing home. Although I come from Leith, most of my best musical experiences in the UK have happened in Glasgow and many of them during Celtic Connections, so I was thinking about that when the song came to me. A few months later I was at Celtic Connections and waiting to meet my friend, the fiddle player Chris Stout, and was sitting in a well- known café on Sauchiehall Street watching the rain bounce of the streets, and finished the song there and then.
I think one of the most magical experiences was taking part in the famous Transatlantic Sessions at the Royal Concert Hall one year. I’d just released my second album My Town, and was invited to be one of the guests. Among the artists I shared a stage with that night were the wonderful Kate and Anna McGarrigle. To be able to sing with those legends and have the likes of Danny Thompson accompanying me on double bass was a very special experience for this lad from sunny Leith.
Last year’s Northern Star (Scotland Sings Canada) was pretty special too. What a lineup of artists singing all those wonderful Canadian songs — Karine Polwart (who sang on my My Town album), James Grant, Justin Currie, Emma Pollock and Rab Noakes. And a very special cameo from the festival supremo Donald Shaw.
So many amazing things go on at Celtic Connections. Bands are formed, people fall in love, songs are written, deals are made, new friendships formed and old friends are reunited.
I always feel very fortunate to be able to take part in it. I’ve taken so many different projects and lineups to the festival over the years, but I couldn’t be more excited about the next one, which is Buffalo Blood at the Mitchell Theatre on the 25th January. This is a brand new project with the brilliant Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt of Nashville collective The Orphan Brigade and country-folk-soul singer-songwriter Audrey Spillman.
It’s a project inspired by, and captured in, the heart of the New Mexico desert. The songs are about the displacement of people, especially the indigenous people of the US, immigration, refugees and the power of the human spirit. It’s inspired by the belief that art can connect us all. The Celtic Connections gig is going to be really special, with the original musicians coming in from the USA, plus my old Felsons buddy Kevin McGuire, and video footage from the outdoors recording sessions.
We recorded it way out in the desert, amongst the canyons and red rocks of artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu (also where a lot of Breaking Bad was set). In the recordings you can hear the sound of the wind and the birds. A really magical place.
Eel Pie Records will release it on vinyl — a double album, gatefold sleeve — and the premiere will be the Celtic Connections gig. A chance for people to get their hands on it before the official release date.
Dean Owens: www.deanowens.com
Buffalo Blood: www.buffaloblood.com
World Premiere Buffalo Blood album launch: Celtic Connections