The Back Loft Studios, where Dublin troubadour Owensie launches his debut solo album, is a curious place. It’s a large barn-shaped church loft, with all sorts of little back passages and alcoves decorated with art by various collectives. The toilets are even curiouser – ancient with seats stuffed with escaping foam and cracked linoleum of the sort you might have seen in your granny’s house back in the ’80s. All in all, it’s a bohemian, folky place. Perfect, in other words, for Owensie’s music.
Owensie, a modest and affable chap who seems to know every band in Dublin, plays a pared-down take on one-man-and-his-guitar folk, which calls to mind Nick Drake (in some of the less conventional figures), more traditional arrangements (at times the set sounds like it’s on the verge of taking off into a sea-shanty) and, at its most wayward (such as on second track played ‘Aliens’), perhaps reminiscent of the Beta Band.
The crowd (who incidentally seem to be dressed for a beanie hat convention – even the camera guys are wearing beanie hats) lap Owensie’s intimate ways right up, thanks in no small part to his naturally funny on-stage banter. As Roy Duffy from Squarehead joins forces to provide backing vocals on a later album track, some hilarious non-sequiters about the internet fill the pauses between songs (“I heard it’s going to be a good year for the internet, Roy. It’s getting a lot of hits, apparently”).
Banter aside, what really stands out about Owensie’s gig is the music. It fills the room magnificently and, when his guitar is at the fore, what rings out are emotionally-charged chord changes that are not quite rock or pop; further evidence of a musician with more tricks in his repertoire than the average singer-songwriter knocking about Dublin. While at brief moments the Nick Drake echoes might see a little too obvious, Owensie had enough style of his own to leave the delighted crowd in no doubt that he is emerging as a singular voice in a genre that too often treads water. A fine night.