Owen Temple

Dollars and Dimes

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Texas born and bred singer/songwriter Owen Temple is a country artist, but like Townes Van Zandt, another Texas songwriter he's often been compared to, Temple is as much folk as country, with a finely honed lyrical sense, a wry sense of humor, and a knack for blending melancholy melodies with ingenious wordplay that can conceal as much as it reveals. This album was written and recorded between July 2008 and January 2009, and deals with the current economic downturn. Most of the songs are taken at a measured tempo and despite the gloomy subject matter, they manage to be uplifting, a tribute to Temple's songwriting craft. "Broken Heart Hand" refers to the heartland of America and could be a song about a man, a city, or a country, a slow poignant ballad Temple sings in his low register with a trace of weary resignation while producer Gabriel Rhodes adds melancholy sustained chords on his B-3. "Black Diamond" paints the portrait of a dying coal-mining town with sharply etched sketches of citizens trying to come to terms with the decay that's slowly consuming the lives they thought were going to last forever. "Making a Life" has the kind of lyrical hook that great country songs are built on: "Making a life, not just a living." It's a great song and could find favor in Nashville with any singer with the desire to cover tunes that speak honestly about hard luck and hard times. "Golden Age" takes a look back at Austin, TX, before it started getting torn up by redevelopment, a nostalgic ballad that doesn't sugarcoat the good old days when times were bad, to plagiarize a phrase. Most of the tunes on the album are somber, as befits the subject matter, but Temple always finds a glimmer of hope, even in the most depressing scenarios. Still, even when Temple does rock out, he's not delivering anything particularly uplifting. "Memphis" has a sprightly tempo and strong electric guitar work by Will Sexton, but the tale it tells is of a country girl trying to make her living working in sleazy strip bars full of drunks, druggies, and women a step away from prostitution. Temple keeps the song from being a total downer with a dose of dark humor. "I Don't Want to Do What I Do" is a country-rocker that conveys the thoughts of a doctor, lawyer, and used car salesman dealing with the recession and their fading dreams. The sprightly tempo makes a good contrast to the song's downbeat message. Temple was at university training to become a psychologist when he dropped out to pursue his muse, and his ability to deliver telling insights without resorting to clich├ęs or obvious images marks him as an original voice.

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