Owsley's 1997 self-titled debut album on vinyl at last!

by Luke Jackson on August 19, 2023

There’s no shortage of great albums from the 90s and early 2000s that are crying out for a vinyl edition, having never initially received one in the CD age. My own personal wishlist is quite long, and this album has been close to the top of it for years, so I’m delighted to offer some copies of it at lukesrecords.com

Will Owsley was an Alabama-born songwriter and guitarist who moved to Nashville in 1987, joined the band of rising star Judson Spence, and turned down an opportunity to tour with country pop star Amy Grant. Instead he formed his own trio with Judson’s brother Jody Spence on drums and wunderkind power-pop bassist Millard Powers. They would eventually be known as The Semantics, signed to Geffen, and swapped out Spence for Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey. The resultant album, the Peter Asher-produced Powerbill was a terrific power-pop album, poised to be released at the worst possible time. Grunge had broken, and Geffen decided The Semantics were too pop for alternative, and too alternative for pop. They dropped the band without releasing the album and it almost killed them, having worked tirelessly for years on the project.

The album eventually got a CD release in Japan in 1996 – long after the band had broken up, and was hastily imported and devoured by in-the-know power-pop fans like myself. Owsley dusted himself off and accepted a renewed offer to join Amy Grant’s band. Bruised by Geffen’s treatment, the story might have ended there with Will becoming an in-demand Nashville guitarist and producer (which he did), but Will knew he had a catalogue of great songs under his belt, and in between gigs backing up Shania Twain, Vince Gill, the Neville Brothers and more, he slowly recorded a solo album in his basement studio with help from a variety of Nashville friends. Initially released independently in 1997, the album included re-recorded versions of a handful of the best Semantics songs, and wound up becoming subject to a small bidding war. It eventually received a major label release on Giant Records in March 1999.

A masterclass in power-pop songwriting, production and guitar playing, the self-titled Owsley met with modest success, achieving decent airplay and garnering a nomination for best-engineered album at the Grammys. For a lot of people I know, this is one of the best-loved albums of the last quarter century. It’s in my top ten for sure. Every song on this album is an old friend of mine. It has been part of the soundtrack of my adulthood.


Sadly, Will fell foul of the usual music business shitfuckery – the enthusiastic A&R guy who’d signed him was replaced by someone who’d never heard of him, and the entire label eventually went tits-up, leaving Will shopping for a new record deal. His second solo album, released on renowned Colorado indie label Not Lame was the excellent but not-quite-as-good The Hard Way, and after limited success, Will returned to sessions, touring and producing which kept him busy for several years. However, a string of misfortunes beset him, not least of which was a messy divorce, and Will sunk into a depression from which he couldn’t recover. He died by suicide in April 2010.

There’s been an Owsley resurgence in recent years, and I was delighted when that first album came up as a contender on the flawed-but-fun Run Out Groove label with their unusual “vote for your favourite of these three albums” system that sees one of the three choices get a vinyl reissue. I covered this label a bit in my Jason Falkner blog when his debut album was up for potential reissue not once but twice. Both Falkner and Owsley’s albums didn’t stand a chance on Run Out Groove against the popular metal LPs they were up against, and while I’m still waiting for someone to make Jason’s Author Unknown on vinyl a reality, I was thrilled when Orange, California label Real Gone Music picked up the vinyl option on Owsley’s debut. They’ve hit it out of the park with this lovingly-produced limited-edition (1,000 copies) tan-coloured vinyl edition of this exceptionally special album.

I don’t stock a lot of new vinyl at Luke’s Records. I’ve built my reputation scouring the UK for vintage records, but I make exceptions for certain albums I adore, and I’m thrilled to have acquired a fistful of Owsley’s album. If you’re in the US, it doesn’t make much sense to buy this from me…the label still has stock and you can grab it from them with $7 media mail shipping. If you’re in Canada however, you’ll want to grab this from me, as the label charge over $25 Canadian to ship an LP north of the border, making your total spend close to $60. You can get it from me here for $40:


I’ll leave you with this charming video of Will performing solo at legendary New Jersey record store Vintage Vinyl which closed in 2021. It was the spring of 2004 and Will was promoting his second album The Hard Way. He takes requests for songs from both albums, and plays a Beatles cover for good measure. 

More than anything, Will wanted to reach people with his music, and if I've turned you on to this exceptional artist for the first time, I've played my part in helping him do that.