Dean Owens & the Whisky Hearts Soundhouse at Traverse Theatre Edinburgh Review Monday 12th December 2016


Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts at The Soundhouse residency at The Traverse Theatre was one of those rare events when everything just fell perfectly into place.  Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts -  Jim McDermott (drums), Brian McAlpine (keys and accordion), Amy Geddes (fiddle), Craig Ross (electric guitar) and Mike McCann (bass guitar) were on top form and the audience at this completely sold out show were on fine form too.  Just one of those moments where band and audience seem to be of the same mind.

A big part of that atmosphere of course is down to Dean Owens and his music.  This was a two set show (plus extra time) that gave us some classic songs.  Dean Owens has a bit of a reputation as a writer of sad and often melancholy songs, and while that is undoubtedly true, when you hear songs like “The Man From Leith”, “I Was there The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin” and “Dora” played in the same set, it is obvious just how wide a musical and emotional spectrum Dean is capable of writing and performing. Some new songs too here tonight for me, and I think the American Civil War inspired “Cotton Snow” is now one of my favourites in the Dean Owens song catalogue.

Its not just the songs of Dean Owens that make any show with him special, and there are many great songs,  “Virginia Street”, “Valentine’s Day in New York”, “Raining In Glasgow” to name check just a few,  but an open honesty in those songs.  Through his music, you feel that you are being invited to look into his own family photographs at times, and with a sharp and gentle humour that is often at odds with the songs themselves, you feel on a night like this that you have been invited into Dean’s own living room (well maybe a slightly bigger one than in reality) to share with him his music and humour more as a friend than a member of the audience, and it is very rare for a performer to have that connection with people. 

Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts have a Christmas single out too, and “Home For Christmas” was our final song of the evening.  You can catch the video of this one at

I can hear some people out there saying “Dean Owens and a Christmas song?”.  It may be a move into festive merriment, but we are still a long way from Dean Owens does “Happy Hour”.

To catch up with what Dean Owens is doing, visit

Review by Tom King


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