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By Peter Cronin   © 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Jake Owen, Country artist, was almost Jake Owen, golf legend. When he was 12, the Vero Beach, Fla., native made up his mind that he would compete with Tiger Woods. 

“I decided to start playing golf because I wanted to do something with my dad,” Owen said. “Once I started playing, I found out that I was pretty good.” But a waterskiing accident abruptly ended his professional golfing aspirations. “I had to have reconstructive surgery,” he said. “I was so depressed.”

While recuperating from his injury, Owen picked up an old guitar, and those hours on the fairway with his dad finally paid off. “My dad loved Vern Gosdin and Keith Whitley,” Owen said. “I grew up listening to classic Country.” 

Owen soon realized that guitar came to him as naturally as golf. While sitting in Pot Belly’s, a campus bar, he had a musical epiphany. As he watched a singer onstage accompanying himself on guitar, he thought, “I can do that.” Later that night, he did. Seventy-five dollars and a few ladies’ phone numbers later, Owen had successfully completed his first gig. At that point, he officially traded his golf clubs for a guitar. 

Shortly thereafter, Owen formed a band, Yee Haw Junction, which played covers of hit Country songs. But it wasn’t long before he was writing his own. His first two efforts, “It’s Been a While” and “8 Second Ride,” received much praise. “I felt like I had something,” he said. 

Upon his arrival in Nashville, Owen teamed up with producer Jimmy Ritchey (Clay Walker, Mark Chesnutt). The pair spent 18 months co-writing and, with Ritchey’s help, Owen was signed to RCA Records. Owen co-wrote every song on his debut album, Startin’ with Me, released on July 25. Only two years after his migration to Music City, Owen has already scored a music-business hole-in-one, gaining an opening slot on a tour with Kenny Chesney.


Who is your musical hero? “I have lots of musical heroes ... anyone original and innovative.”

Which song would you secretly like to cover? “‘Easy’ by the Commodores.”

What CD is on your stereo? “Danny O'Keefe’s CD.”

What book is on your nightstand? “The Bible.”

On the Web: www.jakeowen.com 

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Jake Owen "Startin' With Me" (RCA)

The latest Nashville country hunk is a former Floridian whose golfing career ended in a waterskiing accident. That sort of mid-20s bravado - he was a walk-on member of the FSU golf team - is a hallmark of a debut album for which he co-wrote all eleven songs. Though the opener, "The Bad in Me," is as much blues-rock as it is country, Owen often applies his baritone to mid-tempo songs with more twang. And while he's cognizant of what came before, there's no mistaking that from his Florida perch, he internalized the crossover sounds of '90s and the '00 sounds of Montgomery Gentry and the Muzik Mafia crowd.

The result of his broad exposure are songs that touch most of the country bases (drinkin', hellraisin', religion, etc.), but don't 
necessarily feel as if they were written by someone who'd live the stories. Producer Jimmy Ritchey (whose previous work on Jill King's "Jillbilly" showed some promise) turns out centrist sounds that are indistinct from much of the rest of Nashville's commercial product, and fail to amplify the singer's rebel stance. Owen is an appealing vocalist, but his by-the-numbers debut does little to place him as anything more than a flavor-of-the-month. This is never more apparent than when singing a duet with Alabama's Randy Owen (no relation) on the closing track. The elder Owen rises above the pedestrian backing with a burnished voice full of emotion, while the younger Owen pales in the comparison.

No doubt this carefully crafted album and its singles will stir up a bit of chart action, but without something original, it's hard to see this as the start of a long-term career.



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