And now, the end is near, And so I face the final curtain, My friends, I’ll say it clear. I’ll state my case of which I’m certain, I’ve lived a life that’s full, I travelled each and every highway.
So sang Paul Anka, or Sid Vicious, or Frank Sinatra (take your pick) but it feels apt here too, given that “Hopeless Ghosts” is the terminus of the journey that’s seen us review three Dean Owens EP’s ahead of his “Sinners Shrine” record.
And its apt too, not just because of it being the conclusion, but because these four songs are so hewn in the backroads, the heartland, that it feels like the dust is in their very stitching.
As brilliant as the other two EP’s have been (and given that I’ve called him the finest singer/songwriter in Britain more than once I think I’ve made it clear) there’s a song that ranks as the best. The glorious, wistful “Mother Road”. The plaintive words, “by the end of the 60s the old town had changed, the Interstate had carried folks away”. The best, of course, understand that the real stories are with those that remain in, as he puts it “the town no longer on the map”.
The Latin influence (lest we forget, he’s working with members of Calexico here) that has been so prevalent throughout is right to the fore here too, from the beginning of the title track, which has Grant Lee Phillips doing harmonies.
This is for the troubadours, the itinerant road dogs that explore looking for stories and – dare we say – the dreamers. There’s a touch of Townes Van Zandt about “Even When I’m Gone”, but there’s a hope as well. A silver lining if you will, that it’ll be ok.
Even if it ends on a downbeat, fragile note, as the protagonist on “The End” appears ready to face his maker, with the fatalistic nod to “….it was always gonna end like this” as he prepares for the hangman, then there’s something classic about this songwriting, about the talent on show here.
Dean Owens is the best, we’ll say it yet again, and why? Well how about this? He knows the greats, the same as we all do, but, well, his motto is clear: I did it my way.
There’s a song in that, somewhere.