Some 15 years ago Heather Myles wrote and sang "Nashville's Gone Hollywood", one of a number of songs in the past couple of decades lamenting the drift of Music City toward the glitz and glitter of Tinseltown, with Larry Cordle's "Murder On Music Row" standing out as perhaps the most searing indictment of the takeover of country music by the West Coast pop/rock establishment. Alabama native Shane Owens covers similar ground on his debut with "Nashville You Ain't Hollywood" and lays down his credentials as a traditionally-minded sort who wants the country music business to return to, or at least not stray quite so far from its southern roots. It's worth noting that one of Owens' idols, Randy Travis, lent a hand in the production.
And in fact, the title song is something of a catalog of the memories and cultural touchstones of Owens' Deep South upbringing that have served as the bedrock of the music for almost a full century of the recorded country music era. Owens touches a lot of other bases over the course of 10 tracks, including drinking songs - not one, but two. "All The Beer In Alabama" (an Owens co-write) is about the guy who's going to stay faithful no matter how drunk he gets, while "Alcohol Of Fame" is darkly funny, but still about a born loser. "God And The Ground She Walked On" is a moving story of being old and alone after decades of marriage and companionship, and Owens teams up with John Anderson for a high-spirited cover of Anderson's hit "Chicken Truck," a "cruisin'" song with a messy ending.
While not quite in the ballpark of the kind of stuff George Jones was putting out in his heyday, the arrangements are maybe a bit more electric and heavy on the drums and bass, but feature a good bit more pedal steel and fiddle than a lot of what passes as "country" these days. The exception is the closing track, "19," about a star athlete who goes off to war instead of college. Owens sings solo over a lone acoustic guitar, and it's easily the most striking cut. Owens' voice reverberates with the same kind of growl and twang as, well, Travis and Jones. He may or may not end up having a career equal to theirs, but this is not a bad start.