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Richie Owens and the Farm Bureau

In Farm We Trust

Format: CD   Release Date: 10/25/2011
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Debut albums usually represent the inaugural efforts of neophytes, but sometimes a journeyman musician who simply has never stepped up front into the spotlight makes one, and that is the case with Richie Owens' In Farm We Trust. Owens is a music veteran who has worked as a session and backup musician (notably to his first cousin Dolly Parton), songwriter, producer, engineer, and employee of string instrument companies. (There is even an Owens Guitar line favored by Bob Weir and Nils Lofgren.) Often, when such a professional steps out, his background of adapting himself to others makes him something of a chameleon, and so it is here. Playing with a backup band he calls the Farm Bureau, Owens displays virtuoso talent on a variety of instruments, often showcasing one per tune, such as Dobro ("Hunny Bunny"), mandolin ("Give Me Strength"), and banjo ("It Don't Mean a Thing"). The reference to a farm in the album title and band name, and Owens' own ties to Nashville, suggest more of a country sound than really comes out on the record. Its style might be called country-rock, but for the most part the rock outdistances the country, and that's in the sense of classic rock. With his reedy, nasal tenor voice, Owens often sounds like Tom Petty, and that's a similarity he does not deny; his press biography says of the song "Mountain Girl" that it "might be mistaken for a Tom Petty tune." So it might, and "It Don't Mean a Thing" also recalls Petty the Heartbreakers (with a bit of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys thrown in), while "Morning Light" and "Indian Blues," with their scorching electric guitar work, sound like Neil Young in his hard-rocking Crazy Horse mode. In this sense, Owens really does seem like a debut artist, since, while demonstrating his impressive chops, he still seems to need to carve out his own musical identity apart from his influences. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi

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