Steve Owen claims to have only one original saying: 'The older ya get, the more dead people ya know.' Rather morbid. But on his debut, 'Bottomless Joe,' Owen cranks out enough neo-country tunes about murder, death and destruction to make Ice-T look like a Chamber of Commerce president. ?If you write a story and don?t know how to end it, just kill?em. That always works.' But that doesn?t mean that Owen is depressed, or that his music, though at times a quirky sequel to Armageddon, is a downer. The problem is that Owen, and his backing band Bottomless Joe, don't really play music that matches some of Owen's witty, occasionally tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Think Billy Ray Cyrus on downers and speed at the same time. 'Basically, they?re all bouncy songs with suicide lyrics,' says Owen. Though his roots are planted in the backyard garden of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, Owen never wanted to be a country star. Part if it comes down to the fact that he's heard a few too many Clash records. The other part: he can?t really sing like he was born in Nashville. ?I just can?t do that twang thing.? It's more than Owen's singing style that have forced him off country stations and out into the ?alternative? world. (?We haven?t run into too many ?alternative? country stations.?) Owen's infectious, road-ready mix of bluegrass, rock and folk manages to slip between the cracks of classification. And with a voice that sounds like a bomb racing toward mass destruction, spitting out lyrics about urban woe and the hard life, Owen comes off more as a modern day troubadour with the caffeine shakes than the next Garth Brooks. Basically, he's the bastard child of Patsy Cline and Bob Dylan. Yet what's really kept Owen stumbling around the coffe houses and away from the glitz of the Grand Ole Opry is well, the tuba. 'I had written this song and the bass line sounded like a tuba line. So I asked my bass player, Greg, if he could do it and he said ?yeah.? So we went looking in pawn shops and ended up getting this baritone tuba. Now we have ten songs with it... But yeah, the tuba pretty much knocks us straight off the country stations.' Yet it hasn't kept Owen and Bottomless Joe from finding places to set up shop. In fact, it seems Owen has been offered a few gigs he was more than willing to turn down. 'In one week I was offered gigs to play at an old folk's home, a funeral and the grand opening/unveiling of the Wonder Bra in San Francisco. We didn't play that, though. What stopped us was the lady wanted us to look good, but the best I could do was some jeans without holes.' Fashion statements aside, Owen's darker side is his odd sense of humor. But he's still a pretty stable guy. What more can you ask for from a guy who wants to 'make the world safe for light beer.' 'I swear I'm the normal one in the family.' We believe ya, Steve. City View - Des Moines, IA.