Mountain Home, the sixth studio record from Austin, Texas-based songwriter Owen Temple, is a collection of songs and stories about eccentric characters set in small towns and on the fringes of big cities. Mountain Home may be his strongest collection yet.
The characters are all on edge- on the verge of freedom, catastrophe, and hope- and the songs tell of strange happenings in rural landscapes both past and present.
Recorded with producer Gabe Rhodes, the album has the feel of a live performance with stellar contributions from Charlie Sexton on bass and baritone guitar, Bukka Allen on keyboards, Tommy Spurlock on pedal steel and drummer Rick Richards.
The project includes songs written by Temple and co-writes with Adam Carroll, Scott Nolan, and Gordy Quist (of The Band of Heathens). Temple’s love of folk, blues, and bluegrass shines through in the arrangements and the playing of his compadres.
“I love traditional music- old songs that cross time and space to tell you what the people cared about,” Temple says. “With my songs I'm trying to get down some of the stories of this place.”
Temple’s last album, Dollars and Dimes, hit #5 on the Freeform American Roots chart and #1 on the Euro Americana chart and earned raves for its uncompromising vision of the American dream’s darker side. On Mountain Home, Temple narrows his focus, honing in on the small towns and colorful characters of his home state. The basic tracks were cut live with minimal overdubs. Temple’s emotive singing brings the songs to vibrant life.
Mountain Home explores the lives of small time hustlers, politicians, hard scrabble farmers, wildcatters, and ne’er do wells that contributed to the colorful history of Southwest Texas. Tracks include the bluesy “Medicine Man,” the story of the mad conquistador Cabeza de Vaca; “Small Town,” a talking blues that captures the claustrophobia one feels in a community where everyone knows your business; “Desdemona,” a moody eulogy to an oil rush boomtown; “Old Sam,” a salute to Sam Houston that blends the facts and fiction that gave birth to Texas mythology; and the title track, a bluegrass shuffle that tells the story of a jailbird returning home after a 20 year stretch in the pen.
The songs on Mountain Home are vignettes of real life. Temple’s singing gives them a sense of time and place that makes you feel the hot dusty sun and the cold chill of the unforgiving night. The album captures the feel of the desperate dreamers who want to believe in their latest scheme, even as they feel reality breathing down their neck.
Owen Temple won the B. W. Stevenson Songwriting Competition sponsored by Poor David’s Club in Dallas and became a finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk competition in 2007. He’s known throughout Texas, the Midwest, and the Eastern US as a first-class songwriter, compelling performer and fine singer. Three of his previous albums, General Store, Passing Through, and Two Thousand Miles, were produced by Lloyd Maines and became regional best sellers.
Temple met multi-instrumentalist and producer Gabe Rhodes, son of singer/songwriter Kimmie Rhodes, in 2006. Rhodes became part of Temple’s touring band and produced Dollars and Dimes and Mountain Home. Temple and Rhodes will be touring to support the album.
“I’m a songwriter out of the narrative folk tradition,” Temple says. “The songs I remember hearing years afterward, that stick with me longest, are songs that have taken me places, that allow you to travel with the story. I hope to continue that tradition, to pass that experience on.”