Review: Bobby Joe Owens – Please Rise

Posted on: Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012

“Please Rise”
(Rinkled Rooster – RRCD00004)

Here is a fine solo debut from the larger-than-life Bobby Joe Owens (aka Robert J. Thompson), hailing from Bowie, Maryland, the vocalist with blues band Retro Deluxe, whose latest album, “Watermelon Tea” was given a firm ‘thumbs-up’. The blues are left to the band recordings here, as Owens tackles 12 songs in very much country territory . . . all self-penned bar one.

Most of his fellow band members are on board, including Jimbo Mathus, with the album again being recorded at his Delta Recording Service studio in Como, Mississippi, and also features the band’s superb guitarist, Zach Sweeney . . . the recording touchingly dedicated to the memory of Bobby Joe Owens mother, who passed away last April.

There is no shortage of humour here, starting with the opening nod to the Bakersfield sound of Californian country, “We’re Buckaroos” . . . . a doff of the cap to the great Buck Owens maybe? The following “So Long Gone” is a sweet ballad of a missing love, with fine solo from Zach Sweeney. The pace is taken up on the rocking “My Cadillac’s Got Fins” . . . an ode to the great American automobile, with some sterling work from Billy Earheart on piano, who positively tears it up here.

“Can’t Find A Honky Tonk” laments the lack of a bar of said nature . . . a pure country good-time tune with more lovely guitar from Sweeney (aka Skinny Fats), who on the hillbilly hoedown “Breakin’ These Chains”, switches to banjo and shows his expertise on that instrument. The afore-mentioned passing of Owens mother resulted in the achingly beautiful “Momma’s Song”, which he sang a capella at her funeral.

Jimbo Mathus supplies some mandolin on the short and sweet lament, “Wynonna, Wynonna”, with the gospel-flavoured “I Can’t Wait Til Judgement Day” changing the pace completely again . . . . for some reason reminding me of James Brown preacher cameo in the first “Blues Brothers ” movie . . . driven by Billy Earheart’s organ playing, some ‘churchy’ backing vocals and pushed along by the rhythm section of Bob Peirce (bass) and Mike Mautino (drums).

“Beauty’s Only Skin Deep” is another big ballad, with some tongue-in-cheek lyrics and is a standout here; the country ‘honky tonk’ of “Country Blind” is again great fun and beautifully played . . . a tale of a country singer on the road from town to town and name drops some country legends along the way, with a pop at ‘new country’ thrown in for good measure! The album ends with the ribald and breakneck rocker “The Buck U Song” . . . think Jason & The Scorchers at their rocking best and you’re close to how this sounds . . . some spectacular guitar again from Zach Sweeney . . . and a chorus that you can’t help chuckle at.

I really liked the Retro Deluxe blues album, and similarly, have really enjoyed this . . . from a great singer and character to be sure and a fun recording, but with some fine songs and top players . . . highly recommended!


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