Here's another good record that fell through my cracks this year but deserves to be mentioned. Gwil Owen lives in Nashville and can write to the country form anytime he wants to - or his checking account tells him he needs to. But on his latest project, Gravy, Owen exercises his soul music muscle, both as a writer and singer.
Once you realize Toni Price has been cutting Owen's songs almost as long as he's been writing them, it all sorta starts to make sense. Working with fellow Anglo-Nashvegan soul brother Richard Ferreira, who produced as well as playing bass and keys, Owen delivers a disc that would have made a great string of demos for Aretha, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, the Temptations - everyone, really - back in soul music's frenzied commercial heyday.
The title track and "Peace and Love" sound like the Temps during their late-'60s "Ball of Confusion/Papa Was a Rolling Stone" period, while the quiet bluesy lilt of "Cadillac" (as in "Come on, I'm buying everybody a Cadillac") has all the sweetness and down-home dignity of Otis and Steve Cropper singing "Dock of the Bay."
The two catchiest songs, "Don't Break Funky on Me" and "What I'm Puttin' Down," also have the funniest hooks. Ballads like "Mississippi Moon" show that Owen gets perfectly the infinitely small difference between country and soul. In fact, this record runs on a complex axis from Muscle Shoals to Memphis to Motown by way of East Nashville.
Owen apparently doesn't do YouTube, but several tracks from Gravy are posted on his MySpace. - William Michael Smith
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.