Sunday, January 31, 2010

Steve Howell "Since I Saw You Last"

Steve Howell is back with this, his third cd of country acoustic blues, and I think it's his best work yet. His first two discs, 2006's "Out Of The Past" and 2008's "My Mind Gets To Ramblin'" lay out the formula--Howell on guitar and vocals backed by a small combo consisting of some combination of Joe Osborn (bass and 12 string guitar), Darren Osborn (drums), Chris Michaels (electric guitar and bass), Dave Hoffpauir (drums and vocals), Arnie Cottrell (mandolin and guitar), and Brian Basco (keyboards). This disc was recorded between September 07 and September 09, so it surrounded the "Ramblin'" set. I listened to both of them in preparing this review, and I discovered again that I like Steve Howell's sound--it feels like everything was recorded in somebodys living room, relaxed and quiet. Each of Howell's discs has great playing and good singing--the quality rises or falls depending on the songs. This time around, he records songs by, among others, Mance Lipscomb, Frank Stokes, Blind Lemon Jefferson, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Buddy Johnson and Gus Kahn--it's a strong collection, and Steve's playing with Arnie Cottrell is terrific throughout.

On his last disc the highlight was when Steve brought in Buddy Flett for Robert Johnson's "Steady Rollin' Man." There is nothing on this disc as superlative as that, but this set of 12 tunes are stronger. You can't go wrong buying a Steve Howell cd, but be prepared to discover the disc will burrow its way into your brain with happy results. Nowadays I can't listen to Robert Johnson's tune or Rev. Wilkins' "Prodigal Son" without hearing Steve Howell's warm, winning way with the melody.

This disc is available on Out Of The Past Music.

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