Dean Owens Leith Folk Club Review Tuesday 10th January 2017

Photo by Louis de Carlo


One of our closing highlights of 2016 was Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts’ great performance at The Soundhouse residency at The Traverse, so it is fitting that we open our 2017 reviews with another great show from Dean performing solo at Leith Folk Club.

While it is always great to hear Dean Owens with a full band behind him to bring out different musical layers to his music, it is also a pleasure just to watch and listen to a stripped back solo show like this and through Dean’s vocals and guitar playing (and a bit of harmonica tonight) get maybe that little bit closer to the songs and the lyrics themselves. When you are standing out there performing with nothing but your guitar in hand, there is nowhere to hide, but of course Dean needs nowhere to hide - the man and his music somehow always seem to fill any space he is performing in, large or small.

There is always an “on the sleeve” honesty to the music of Dean, and the song “Dora” written about finding out about his circus family ancestry was a perfect number to pull the audience right into that personal space that few performers are comfortable with you being in. Following on with “Kids” again, an invitation to us to explore old schoolfriends of Deans and what happened to them.

Some singer/songwriters hide personal feelings and personal tragedies from an audience, but Dean uses his music to openly explore that side of his personal life, and two songs, “Evergreen” and “Julie’s Moon”, both written about his older and obviously much loved sister Julie losing her battle with cancer illustrate just how personal and powerful his music can be. These are not songs you want to write, but songs that somehow you have to write. “Julie’s Moon” will be released around March this year in association with Marie Curie to raise funds for their charity. Watch this website (or Dean's) for more details.

This being the Leith Folk Club, another personal song “The Man From Leith” of course had to be on the set list and received its usual well deserved applause and sing-a-long...especially as the man himself was there in the audience.

Over the years, Dean Owens has built up an impressive body of work and putting everyone’s favourite song into a show like this is just not possible, and it is actually a tribute to the quality of the music that so many other good songs just don’t get a chance at times to be performed due to time limits. Many other performers simply do not have that quality of back catalogue songs to use. That said though, the second set was pretty much requests gathered during the interval, and there were some real surprises in there such as the not often heard “Desert Star”, and even though Dean may think that his vocal range has changed over the years, “Shine Like A Road After The Rain” is a classic and suits his current vocal range perfectly, so put it back into the standard set list please Dean. A few requests out there tonight for “a happy song”, but do we really expect such things from Dean? Somehow, some of Dean’s darker songs can actually make you feel very happy – when you realise that it is not you in the song and just how good things actually are for you...a sort of “schadenfreude” working at times here I think.

A few different sides to Dean Owens tonight...Dean the singer songwriter, the Johnny Cash and Hank Williams sounds and of course that humour that anyone coming from Leith will recognise.

Also worth mentioning here is that Dean Owens and Amy Geddes (from The Whisky Hearts) will be working together soon under the name of “Redwood Mountain” to record (and hopefully perform later) some traditional American Folk Songs with new music written around the old lyrics.

The Leith Folk Club is one of those rare venues where the regulars are just welcoming and friendly to anyone who enters their doors, so a perfect venue for that warm and friendly connection with an audience that Dean Owens always has.

If you have not read our last review with Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts, you can read it here.

To catch up with what Dean Owens is doing, visit

Dean Owens was supported tonight by Hailey Beavis, but I have to give Hailey my apologies here. Sorry, but it just was not possible due to other schedules to catch your set tonight...hopefully next time.

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