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Steve Owen
Like an Atheist in Nashville

(from The Spectator, Chapel Hill/Raleigh-Durham, NC)
by Rick Cornell

It takes a brave and skillful songwriter to attempt a tune about a one-legged alcoholic clown turned priest. Bay Area singer/songwriter Steve Owen pulls it off, complete with surprise ending, on "The Ballad of Wendell T. Phillips," one of the standouts on his third release of country/folk/rock vignettes and road tales. The way Owen tells a story puts him in Tom T. Hall territory.
"Gravedigger" is particularly lean and stunning, while his ability to set a scene recalls Bill Morrissey. With the words center stage, the backing music is somewhat secondary but never second-rate, often low-key but never low-maintenance, as banjo, B-3 organ, mandolin, melodica, accordion and tuba all make at least one appearance. And when things do get comparatively raucous, such as on the country-shuffling "Comfort" and the catchy chorus of "Sing Me No Love Songs," you may find your ass kicked halfway across the room - in a good way.

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