Song of the Day: Owl John – Red Hand

photo by Dave Lichterman

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with DJ Cheryl Waters, is “Red Hand” by Owl John from the 2014 self-titled album on Canvasback/Atlantic.

Owl John – Red Hand (MP3)

The solo project from “the voice of Frightened Rabbit”, Owl John finds Scottish musician Scott Hutchinson running his trademark cathartic, caustic songwriting through a more studio-intensive process than ever before. After getting off tour behind Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse, Hutchinson initially began prepping for the Scottish quartet’s fifth LP before receiving a call from his record label suggesting he should do a solo album. Seeing an opportunity to let the band take a break (and go to the studio with the label picking up the tab), Hutchinson began writing songs that he felt wouldn’t fit into the Frightened Rabbit mold, and in February, he gathered Frightened Rabbit’s drummer Andy Monaghan and touring guitarist Simon Liddell to make “a ‘solo’ album that isn’t really a solo album”.

The result, a self-titled LP released this month, is unmistakably Hutchinson’s work – there are enough well-placed profanities and cathartic shouts to ensure that – but Owl John feels rougher around the edges and less organic than any of Frightened Rabbit’s output. On “Red Hand”, chaotically distorted guitars and Hutchinson’s echo-laden vocals lay down a snarling tirade against a former paramour (“Darling show your hand/Are you gripping some joker behind that back/I won’t beg to be told/Oh the friction burn in your palms says it all”) that’s more vicious than anything he’s written since 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight. “Red Hand”, and the rest of Owl John, ranks among some of Hutchinson’s most immediate, visceral songwriting, and by expanding his sonic palette, also maintains Hutchinson’s reputation as one of Scotland’s finest songwriters.

Hutchinson is currently working on the fifth Frightened Rabbit album in Wales, so he doesn’t have any more Owl John gigs lined up at the moment, but any announcements regarding new Owl John or Frightened Rabbit gigs or music will be posted on the Owl John website and the Frightened Rabbit website and Facebook. Below, watch the somewhat NSFW video for “Red Hand”.

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