The Hard Way
(Lakeview, 2003)

Will Owsley wanders down the electric side of folk on The Hard Way. His voice is wonderful to listen to, with just a touch of rasp. The songs vary in content, and the music fills out the emotional context of the songs.

Most of the musicians who lend their talents to this CD only play on a few tracks, with the exception of Chris McHugh (drums and percussion), Jonathon Hamby (Hammond B3 organ, piano, chamberlain and synthesizer) and, of course, Will Owsley (electric guitars, acoustic guitar, piano, bass guitar and vocals). The others include Michael Rhodes, Jimmie Lee Sloas, Millard Powers, Keith Thomas, John Painter, Gordon Kennedy, Simon Petty and James Michael.

The songs on the album cover a variety of emotional states. The musical drive of "Be with You" adds passion to the lyrics of this love song. The percussion starts as a soft back beat that builds in intensity in "Rise" as the lyrics seek to lift the listener up. There is the hope of second chances in "She's the One," which plays against the sorrow of "Dude," a song that expresses the feelings of the broken-hearted. "Down" tackles the subject of vengeance, but from the view point of the person who will be its target. There is solidness in the music of "Matriarch" as the lyrics tell of a strong and loving woman. The next song, "Undone," takes us from familial to romantic love and the simplicity of the music underscores the lyrics. Guitars set the mood for "The Hard Way" when they slow things down, and harmonica underscores the sadness in the song.

Memory can be a strange thing, and the images in "Dirty Bird" drift in and out of focus. The music is also a blurred mix with the guitars cutting across the percussion. The scratchy edge of Will Owlsey's vocals brings out the darker boundaries of "Rainy Day People." There is a bit of a delay before you get the hidden track on the CD. The piece feels like the sample of several different songs that somehow fit together.

All in all, The Hard Way is a pleasure to listen to.

- Rambles
written by Paul de Bruijn
published 29 January 2005

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