Sunday, May 2, 2010

R.I.P. Will Owsley (1965-2010) - live Newark, NJ 2/21/99 + The Semantics - Powerbill demos (199?)

Yesterday, I was informed by one of my readers that Will Owsley (more commonly referred to as simply Owlsey) died this past Friday, April 30th, the result of an apparent suicide in Franklin, Tennessee. Before going any further, you can read some pertinent articles here and here, while Power Pop Criminals blog has dedicated a post as well.

Owsely's endeavors involved performing as a touring guitarist for Amy Grant, but more notably to the pop/indie-rock contingent (like myself) he released a pair of solo albums in the '00s, and was the frontman for the utterly overlooked Semantics, a trio who's music rivaled that of Jellyfish and Jason Falkner.

The Semantics had the misfortune of being under contract to Geffen Records in an era when flannel and bludgeoning power chord rock reigned. Though it's rumored that Ben Folds was part of the Semantics lineup, that's nonsense, however he did sit in for a few demos, and was the one who introduced Owsely to bandmate Millard Powers. The Semantics had a prominent Beatles connection by way of enlisting Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey to play, you guessed it, the skins. In 1993 the trio recorded an album for Geffen, Powerbill, that was ironically shelved altogether in the States, but found eventual release in Japan in '96. Powerbill is downright required listening for aficionados of '90s guitar pop, and although it's long been out of print, it does pop up on Ebay occasionally, but more conveniently is available for download from Look What the Twat Dragged In blog. With it's bright, chin-up tenor, you'd hardly guess from the album that Owsley was as vulnerable as he tragically was. The same notion goes for his two solo forays, Owsely in 1999 and The Hard Way, five years later, that as with Powerbill veered toward the shiny power pop of Jason Falkner, The Grays, Tories, and to a lesser extent, The Rembrandts. Pop Fair blog is hosting a collection of "lost" Semantic/Owsley songs that are easily up to par with the man's officially released catalog.
Submitted for your approval is a live 1999 Owsley performance in Newark, NJ in support of his self titled solo album. As a bonus, I tacked on a poignant cover of Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye" from another concert. I'm also sharing five demos of tracks that would be rerecorded for the excellent Semantics album I raved about above. Rest in peace friend.
Live Newark, NJ 2/21/99
01. intro
02. Oh No, the Radio
03. The Homecoming Song
04. Coming Up Roses
05. Uncle John’s Farm
06. Zavelow House
07. Sonny Boy
08. Sentimental Favorite
09. I’m Alright
10. The Sky is Falling
11. Good Old Days
12. Class Clown
plus: Last Goodbye (live Jeff Buckley cover)

The Semantics - Powerbill demos 
01. Sticks and Stones
02. Future for You
03. Glasses and Braces
04. Johnny Come Lately
05. Coming Up Roses


VanceMan said...

How sad ...

I saw Owlsey years ago opening for -- I believe -- David Bowie. What I mainly remember is me and my friends having a discussion that can be summed up as, "If all concert openers were that good, I'd get to more concerts on time." Considering the hundreds of concerts we'd been to, that was higher praise than you might imagine.

I send (cosmic) good wishes to those who were left behind, and wish that this may be their last sorrow.

Anonymous said...

leigh said...

I was trying to figure out how I missed this show back then, but when I finished the download I saw that the cover art says "Live in Newmark." Which is not the same as Newark. Not sure where exactly this show was, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in New Jersey.

Thanks for posting though!

leigh said...

Actually... at the start of Oh No The Radio, it does sound like he says, "What up, New-ark!" Could be Newark, Delaware?

Unknown said...

It is the Stone Ballroom in Newark .

I also uploaded it, along with a show from Roseville on March 4th, 2000:

eric said...

I'm learning about this here on Wilfully Obscure. Out of curiosity, I bought "Owsley" upon its release in 1999 after reading that Owsley was a native of my home state, and I loved it. Thank you for the info and links, Spavid. Dora, thanks for your upload.

MineralMan said...

Thank you for posting the link to the Newark and Roseville shows. Do you know at which venue the Roseville show was played on March 4, 2000?


Houndog said...

Any chance that you could make this available again?

spavid said...

I just updated both links. Thanks for alerting us.

Houndog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Houndog said...

Can a new active link be provided for the Roseville on March 4th, 2000 show?

pellky said...

Please respect the man and correct the instances in which you spelled his name wrong - twice