Bones Owens | Bones Owens | (Black Ranch Records/Thirty Tigers)
4 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Don’t be misled by the Stetson styled cowboy hat singer/songwriter/guitarist Bones Owens uses to hide his face on this, his debut full length. There’s no twangy country or meditative roots music here. Rather, Owens shifts, rather radically, from the style of his previous two more introspective inclined indie EPs, to a gutsy, garage, swamp infested rocker.
The new approach fits him well, surely better than his earlier forays into recording which felt cautious. There’s nothing tentative here. Owens swaggers like Oasis in its prime on tough, rugged pop rockers like “Blind” and “White Lines.” As a guitarist, he locks onto a riff then pushes from there as the rest of the stripped down band chugs behind him. Lyrics are secondary (“White Lines” repeats its “Won’t sleep tonight ‘til I see your face” chorus nine times) as the music cranks along with a propulsive, throbbing confidence and hook heavy guitar lines, somewhere between the harder side of Tom Petty and Cheap Trick, while reflecting some of T. Rex’s glam tendencies.
Owens knows how to craft an astute sing-along too as evidenced by the crowd friendly “Good Day,” complete with a terse guitar solo and backing vocals all crammed into just over two minutes. It’s waiting to get unleashed on a live club audience, once touring starts again. Even when the going gets dark in “Wave”’s “Where were you when I called your name?/ It’s too little now, too late,” the music bubbles with crackling motion. As a singer, Owens isn’t anything special but he puts across these corkers with sufficient jumpy enthusiasm.
But it’s the magnetic riffs that push these tracks into the red. With more volume and bigger drums, the ragged guitar that rips through “Country Man” might be ripe for a respectable heavy metal cover. The lyrics of “Black boots on a muddy road/Tattoo of a skull and bones/Long cut on the radio/When I’m going home” also lend themselves to at least a hard rock interpretation. The same applies to the leathery lick of “Tell Me” that seems to emerge from an old Black Sabbath album, except far swampier and with a wailing gospel singer punching the song into churchy territory.
At a conservative 38 minutes, these dozen tunes are over too quickly. Prepare to hit play again to further bask in some of the tightest, tautest, and most organic rocking of the year thus far.