Christopher Owens

A New Testament

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On the follow-up to his tender, Baroque-infused debut Lysandre, former Girls frontman Christopher Owens takes a different path with the country-infused A New Testament. Working again with producer Doug Boehm, Owens colors his quirky songwriting style with a mix of pedal steel and a trio of female backing vocalists, exploring his relationship with both country and gospel music. While a heavily themed album may surprise some fans, it's not that big a stretch for the California-based songwriter. Much of his output with Girls had a distinct, old-time Everly Brothers influence and his tumultuous years growing up in the Children of God cult gives him a unique perspective on his gospel, to say the least. As with Lysandre, Owens is at his best on the slower, more contemplative fare like the wistful waltz "It Comes Back to You" and the laid-back ballad "I Just Can't Live Without You (But I'm Still Alive)." Many of the more uptempo tracks, like the twangy gospel rave-up "My Troubled Heart" and the honky tonk pop of "Nothing More Than Everything to Me," feel a bit too forced and formulaic and the album's surprisingly clean, straightforward production does little to bring them to life. Sadly, that could really be said for most of this odd collection. Owens himself is a fascinating character with an unusual backstory (born into a religious cult, runaway, assistant to an oil tycoon, street punk, junkie, rocker) and it seems like he missed an opportunity here to really put his well-earned gravitas into a genre that would be ripe for it. That the rather mundane and conservative A New Testament is the end result of his country explorations is a bit of a shame. Still, he gets credit for being an odd bird willing to take strange chances like this even when they don't fly.

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