Cash Back (Songs I Learned from Johnny) featuring Dean Owens (vocals and guitar), Kevin McGuire (bass) and Craig Ross (guitar) at The New Town Theatre took a capacity crowd audience on a heart-felt trip into some of Dean’s favourite songs by Johnny Cash. Some of these songs are original Johnny Cash classics written by the man himself, others are songs that he recorded by other writers including Kris Kristofferson, Nick Lowe, and Leonard Cohen.
Dean Owens himself announced when he came on stage “I am not Johnny Cash”, but that didn’t matter to anyone in the audience as we had all come to listen to not only the music of Johnny Cash, but also someone who always manages to capture the spirit of these country classics; someone who also has written some of the best contemporary songs around in true country feel and style…Dean Owens – The Man From Leith with a little detour via Nashville on the way.
As usual with any performance from Dean Owens, there was that immediate connection with his audience, gentle but very dry humour and of course some great music. If you were out to hear some of the iconic Johnny Cash songs then Dean and the band’s versions of “Ring of Fire”, “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” should have hit all the right buttons. Songs by others that Johnny Cash recorded including “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Bird on A Wire” illustrated clearly just how easily Johnny Cash could take a song and make it sound not only like it was one of his own, but one that had been his own for a very long time.
Many of the songs in this set are on Dean Owens’ own album Cash Back (Songs I Learned from Johnny) and the one song on that album that was written by Dean – “The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin" clearly shows not only that he can capture that sound perfectly, but also what a gifted writer he is in his own right.
Despite all the classic Johnny Cash songs played tonight though, one of the most emotional songs in this set was not one that Johnny Cash himself wrote, but one that he recorded late in his life and put a lifetime of pain and anguish into – “Hurt” a song originally performed by The Nine Inch Nails and written by the bands Trent Reznor.
This was a Dean Owens show, so of course a few detours along the way – including an impromptu performance of “Heartbreak Hotel” – there is a connection here, Johnny Cash is on film playing this song, but this one was Dean’s memories of performing this song (dressed in full Elvis costume) just hours before his daughter was born – Happy 21st birthday today.
If you are reading this review and have never been to a Dean Owens show then try and make it to the next one and you will understand why this one has a five star review…anyone who can get a whole audience to stand in for the trumpet sounds of an unavailable band member deserves all the stars that they can get.
Review by Tom King
Ahead of this years Cash Back (Songs I Learned from Johnny), Dean Owens kindly took some time out to do a Q & A interview with us
click here to go to Dean Owens - Cash Back (Songs I Learned from Johnny) Q & As