DURHAM, North Carolina-based Americana troubadour Owen FitzGerald isn’t just a songwriter of whom you can simply say, he looks askance at life in a refreshing way couched in sound songsmithery – I mean he is all that, of course he is – but he brings back postcards from his own particular day-to-day travails, this mucky, messy, confusing and abrading business we call life; thinks about how he thinks and why, indeed, he thinks that; and then thinks about that some more.
Such self-investigative candour leads to off-kilter alt.country brilliance, as evidenced in the single he dropped just last month, “Bismuth, The Last Gentleman”; a song of which we said, “[it’s] skeletal, wintry but overarchingly lovely … and just when you think you’ve got the measure of it, it breaks into an off-kilter, wind-in-the-telegraph-wires guitar meander, taking it somewhere else entirely.”
He formerly guised up for the giddy musical cosmos as Jokes&Jokes&Jokes but has since returned to his ‘government name’ – the name under which he snuck out two fine if lyrically troubled and akimbo albums digitally in 2015, Tight Gyre and Pointer.
That brace of releases included tracks such as “A Brief Personal History”, “I Am Not My Own” and “I Don’t Like Myself, I Wish I Was Smoke”. Hey, is everything alright in your world, Owen? Maybe not.
Now he’s pulled a second teaser from next year’s LP, A deep clean you can count on!, which comes with the curious title “Touching the Oven at Work”. Doth the mind boggle? What can he mean? What strange vignette does he invite us to conjure up?
It’s actually a song of deep disassociative querying about the very nature of existence: “If my eyes turn light into sight / If it still hurts / Touching the oven at work / Why, do I, feel dead?”, he expounds with some bleakly clear reasoning, all set in a leftfield country waltz, confessional to the max.
The man himself says of the single: “Have you ever been so sad that the game started to play itself? Did your routines still hum along even though “self” had evaporated? This song will be a real treat if you’re like me.”
The album he describes thus: “The songs on A deep clean you can count on! are frightened, sad, confused, bewildered, dislocated, hopeful, and hopeless.
“These nine songs are like school pictures. They are wallet-sized portraits taken between 2006 and 2016. They’re emotional snapshots.
“Sometimes I can’t recognize myself in the songs. Other times I’m so swept up that I’m carried back in time by strong, old feelings. I’m hungover and doomed. I’m an unfixable thing that hurts other people. Whenever you find an old picture of yourself in a yearbook or a sock drawer I hope you feel happy to be where you are. More than anything else, that’s how this record makes me feel.”
Owen FitzGerald’s A deep clean you can count on! will be released by Sleepy Cat Records on February 4th.