David Owen – Oh Suzana Blues
Owensound Recordings – 2022
11 tracks; 41 minutes
Canadian David Owen released his debut album in 2003 but, sadly, he lost his wife in a tragic accident and took a lengthy break from music to raise his family, returning in 2015 with Lovin’ Life. For his latest album he travelled from his Ottowa home to Nashville to record with Colin Linden at his Pinhead Studio.
In an intimate setting David sings eleven of his own songs, playing acoustic guitar and harmonica, solo on a couple of tracks but also accompanied by combinations of Colin Linden (acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin), Fats Kaplin (violin and accordion) and Dominic Davis (upright bass). David has a deep, slightly cracked voice which can, at times, be an acquired taste, the songs with greater instrumentation coming across better, in this reviewer’s opinion, than the solo efforts.
The album opens with “Soul Of A Sullen Man” in which David confesses that he is a “Johnny-come-lately to these happy days” and that he takes a generally downbeat approach to life, the violin and harp adding to the pathos of the song. Colin plays some jaunty acoustic guitar behind David’s harp and vocals on “Sweet Sugar Mama” which shows the fun side of David’s music. David gently makes fun of himself as the “21st Century Retro Man” who spends time in record stores and weekend dances and then recognizes that “All Folk Get The Blues”, a lively piece of Piedmont blues.
“Bankruptcy Blues” is a solo cut with David playing well on acoustic guitar and harp though his vocals are rather weak, despite some echo added by the producer, a technique that is also used on “Master Of Disguise”, a song which has a dark feel, reinforced by the harp and some ringing chords from Colin’s electric guitar.
Two songs follow that deal with religion. “Fr. John’s Blues” is a strange little song that recounts the tale of a man who is no longer welcome in his home town, despite the fact that he found God. That is followed by “No God But God” which sounds like a condemnation of those who claim to follow religion but do not do so consistently.
The title track is a solo piece, well played on guitar but something of a stretch vocally for David who does sound genuinely moved by the recollections of this lady. Bass and violin return to give a more upbeat feel to “Stella Marie”, David playing some high-pitched harp before Colin accompanies David on dobro on another sombre tune with a title that says it all, “So Lonesome Without You”. It’s a long track, running to six minutes, and has some good lyrical touches but David’s vocals on the chorus are problematic.
Overall this is quite a sombre record but the band plays well and the songs are interesting, so fans of acoustic music should find something to their taste here.