A mild political discussion takes place at the bar, and people who’ve never met clumsily disagree on where to sit in order to get the best view. Through these delicate skirmishes, the atmosphere remains warm and cosy as onlookers anticipate the album launch gig from Dean Owens & the Whisky Hearts.
Thanks to a tremendous supporting slot from Kenyan born, Scottish singer-songwriter Genesee, things get off to a soothing start. Confidently opening with an impressive a cappella performance, she presents an enjoyable set-list including a terrific, finger-picked cover of Bronski Beat’s classic hit Smalltown Boy, and punctures the silences with humorous one-liners (“Let’s end on a positive note… this song is about disliking my sister”). Her thirty minutes race gloriously by and before long, it’s time for the main dish.
Owens kicks off proceedings with two songs from his new (and currently unreleased) album Into the Sea, before promising fans that the band will shortly move on to familiar material. Just when things seem to be too closely treading a predictable Country/Americana line, Owens & Co. throw in 2008 pop-rocker Hallelujah to liven up the evening. Calais Brown is given several opportunities to rip away on his guitar, whilst Amy Geddes (fiddle) & Sean Pugh (keys) subtly weave in and out of the music with absolute mastery.
On three separate occasions, Owens attempts to manoeuvre events in a direction that the audience simply aren’t willing to travel. Firstly he plays a solo acoustic number before asking if he should get the band back on stage. “NO!” comes the overwhelming reply, and instead we are treated to an extra unplugged tune: Sand in my Shoes. The other two disagreements arise as the band attempt to wrap things up, with the fans pleading for them to stay. “Okay,” replies Owens on both occasions, ignoring the age-old advice to leave people wanting more, “one more song,” and we are happily indulged in momentary bliss for that little bit longer.