OWSLEY - The Hard Way

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Have a few still sealed copies of this outstanding power pop release from the sadly, tragically departed Will Owsley.

"4 stars. Although his solo debut was nominated for a Grammy (for Best Engineered Album) in 2000, William Owsley's name wasn't exactly a household word when this sophomore album was released on an indie label in early 2004. Nevertheless, the craft and detail that caught critics' ears on his first album remain intact as he concocts ten more glimmering pop/rock gems. While these insistent songs seem radio-ready, it might be radio from another decade, since Owsley remains proudly out of step with most popular music of the mid-2000s. Regardless, for those who treasure their copies of Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything? or McCartney's Band on the Run -- the title tune of which he covers in a hidden closing track here -- this is a gem. Owsley's clean but rather faceless vocals and immaculately layered production recall Fountains of Wayne's similar approach, although he doesn't display that group's dry, self-deprecating humor. But as Beatles/Big Star-styled pop/rock goes, this is a compelling listen with loads of surprises. "Rainy Day People" even features a sharp guitar solo as good as anything Rick Nielsen could whip off. The multiple overdubbed backing vocals of "Come Undone" and the near Spector-ish sweep of "Down" are some of the many highlights. But this album is so consistently enjoyable and paced so thoughtfully as powerful but never slick ballads alternate with hook-heavy rockers, it's tough to pick favorites. Although only his second release, The Hard Wayshows Owsley to be a mature, focused, and confident musician." - AMG