Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Stephen Howard has, in recent years, cut his teeth as a team player, offering up his considerable talents playing bass with indie darlings Denali and Capitol Records' Ambulette, and baritone guitar as a member of the self-proclaimed slowest band in Chicago, Pinebender. With this, his first solo release, Howard steps out of the shadows with an effort that is as harrowing as it is beautiful. BLURT says:

"Beginning with the opening processional, "Passwords to a Fort Full of Pills," Howard chronicles in a dozen songs - usually at a narcotic-friendly pace - the cycle of injury/recovery/addiction that characterized his last dozen years (Howard says he wrote one song per year). On the aptly titled "Winter of Our Discontent," whose ringing guitars and rolling percussion sounds like a blend of East River Pipe and Pedro the Lion, Howard sings what must've amounted to a mission statement for much this era: "Drove my car right into the lake/to show that there are faster ways/to sink to the bottom/but I'd rather take my time." His hospital visits are evocatively adapted in tracks like "Night Nurse Calls" and "So This Is Dying," and elsewhere we hear Howard negotiating with his habits, as on "Goin' for the Gold" when he sings "Not giving in, just getting high, that's the way some of us get by.""

That's right---THE RECORD IS SUPER DEPRESSING. A total of twelve songs written over a period of 12 years, it focuses almost exclusively on his health battles and subsequent emotional fallout following the ebb-and-flow cycles of affection, addiction, and ailment. Howard's hopeful voice is one of defiance and faith. GET IN TOUCH, and I will get you a copy, and you will go, "Oh, damn...". CONGRATS, STEPHEN.

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