Garrett Owen’s aptly titled new release, Quiet Lives, is almost reverent at times. His unrushed vocals, as earnest as they are beautiful, is sometimes accompanied by little more than an acoustic guitar which serves the songs well putting the lyrics front and center. But even when he brings in more instruments – synths and even an electric guitar toward the end of the record – there is still a stripped-down feeling to the songs here.
The album starts off with “No One To Save You,” an autobiographical tune about a relationship not being able to withstand the vagabond life of a musician (with a shout out to sometime touring partner Parker Millsap in the opening lines of the song). Elsewhere, on the record’s lead single and closing track, “Modern Times,” over a finger picked guitar lines and swirling piano, Owens tackles escaping technology, dreaming of running off to a Wi-Fi-less mountain top somewhere.
But his most reliable topic always comes back to love, having it and losing it. “Weakest Hour,” delivered in a near falsetto is almost heartbreaking and his cover of the Chips Moman/Bobby Emmons “Wurlitzer Prize,” slowed down and delivered with unflinching emotion sounds nothing like the Waylon classic; Owen completely remakes the song in his own style, turning it into a hauntingly gorgeous relationship dirge.
Though the album is still consistent with Owen’s earlier efforts – it doesn’t stray too far from the folk/Americana style – there is a musical evolution here, marking his most experimental record yet thanks to complex chord changes and the use of synth here and there along with the blending of musical styles. It’s most obvious on a song like “Hour in the Forest,” (at five and a half minutes, the longest track on the record) which starts out a like a traditional folk pop song before building to a full on Brian May-esque arena rock guitar solo, before morphing back.
The result is remarkably satisfying. Much like Millsap mentioned above and a handful of other Texas/Oklahoma natives, Owen is forging a path that has no real allegiance to current musical trends relying on strong lyrics and confident vocals to put forth his message. At just nine songs, Quiet Lives is a consistently great record that simply ends too quickly. http://garrett-owen.com/