Owsley – Owsley
Owsley. Now there’s a name I hadn’t heard in a while. I knew I knew them/him, but I couldn’t remember any songs off the top of my head. Then, I put the record on, the first pressing of his 1999 self-titled debut, and it all came back. Ahhhh, that’s right. I recognized track 1, “Oh No, The Radio” immediately, but the real banger (if you can have one on a late 90s pop/indie adjacent record from a guy named Owsley) is track 2, “I’m Alright,” which has now been stuck in my head ever since I first gave this a spin. Hit the jump to keep reading full review.
I’ll admit, I moved the needle back to play this track more than a few times in a row and even drove around town blasting it. Hey, I might even bust it out at an upcoming DJ set just for kicks… and to throw a proverbial middle finger up to those haters out there because “I don’t care what you say/Nothing’s gonna change me anyway/I don’t care what you say about me.” That’s right! Maybe it’s my July power ballad.
Jokes aside (or not?), the first side of the album, namely the first four tracks, is pretty solid and the songs flow nicely into one another, but the second side is pretty meh and nothing really stands out to me there. Never released on vinyl, this first pressing from Real Gone Music is limited to 1,000 copies and is not only pretty to look at (it’s translucent peachy/pink), but it also plays well and sounds rich. Has anyone else noticed how lighter-colored wax sometimes doesn’t sound as full as the traditional black? I’ve had many a pretty record skip on the first listen (clear or splattered is usually the culprit).
But I digress…The album has a bit of a Brit-pop sound to it, so I was surprised to note after doing some research that Will Owsley was Tennessee-based and originally from Alabama. And, he once toured as a guitarist with Amy Grant. What? Yeah, Amy Grant. Is it a mere coincidence that I happened to be listening to “The Collection” in my car yesterday? Yes, I have the CD. Please don’t tell anyone.
Owsley definitely sounds like my freshman year of college and got me on a little rabbit hole stint to the tune of The Promise Ring, Fountains of Wayne, Superdrag, and Brendan Benson. Yet another name I had forgotten. Maybe that’s what I can thank Owsley the most for: reminding me of these other feel-good bands and an era of rolled-up jeans and a certain kind of white T-shirt, red V-neck sweater, and black Converse innocence.
Sadly, Owsley died in 2010 at the age of 44 of an apparent suicide, which now makes this poppy, upbeat first pressing have a much darker ring to it and feel more like a tribute than anything else.
Who should listen: If you were a big fan back in the day or gravitate toward power pop
or early emo, definitely grab a copy. If you, like me, were a vague fan and want to be taken back to college nostalgia and the days of burned CDs and all your friends wanting to learn how to play guitar to play at bonfires and be in rock bands, give this a spin too. It’s not a favorite, nor is it a standout, but it’s a slice of a specific time and feeling.
Cheers, Owsley. Thanks for taking me back. Amy and I salute you from my car CD collection to yours. You’re alright. I hope you’re coming up roses.