Owen Temple: Dollars and Dimes

OwenTemple_DollarsAndDimesSoulful country-folk-rock travelogue of today’s North America

Austinite Owen Temple takes inspiration for his fifth album from his extensive travels as a touring musician, and from Joel Garreau’s book The Nine Nations of North America. Garraeu argues that national and state borders are mere geographical lines that fail to surround populations of like interests and lives. He proposes nine regions, such as Ecotopia (the northwest coast), Breadbasket (the midwest US and Canada), and Foundry (the industrial northeast) that are held together by shared economic interests and cultural beliefs. He asserts that what people do (or, in the current recession, don’t do) defines their common character more clearly than borders drawn from rivers or arbitrary surveyor’s marks.

Temple explores this idea in a set of songs drawn from impressions or observations of these regions, from the rusting industrial dreams of “Broken Heart Land,” through the vast emptiness of “Black Diamond” and the title track’s study of the migrations that built and sustain America. He examines the social mobility that’s led many to wander rootlessly from metropolis to metropolis, often draining into the artificial oasis of Southern California (“Los Angeles is the city of the future, and it’s coming to get you”). He draws sharp portraits of working people whose labors are for “making a life, not just a living,” as well as those sick of their daily grind. It’s not as dark as Slaid Cleaves’ Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away, but stands on the same observational singer-songwriter ground.

There’s a very American streak of nostalgia in many of these songs, including the fictional transplants who find adopted homes not what they expected, and Temple’s own memories of his early days in Austin and later years in the frigid north turn his pen inward. This is a more studied album than 2008’s Two Thousand Miles, though it retains the same soulful folk-country sound. Temple’s stock taking creates a more personal, more interior, less archetypal version of the Americana travelogues Johnny Cash wrote in the 1960s. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Broken Heart Land
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