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February/March 2010

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Steve Howell
Since I Saw You Last
Out Of The Past Music

Steve Howell

Since I Saw You Last (Out Of The Past Music) is Texas-born Steve Howell’s third CD, to my knowledge, and he carries on his love affair with country blues here. Some of the songs are a little more country than blues, but don’t take that as a criticism because they are all good and they are a mix of old and new. There’s a mix of country blues, rockabilly, folk and R&B (not the current R&B, but the traditional sort from the '50s).

I have to admit that a previous CD, My Mind Gets To Ramblin’, was more to my personal taste, maybe because I’m a bit of a traditionalist. But there’s something about this CD that makes me keep playing it – maybe it’s the mix of different tempos and influences which makes every track so different from the one before.

Howell’s treatment of the old John Lee Hooker standard, “Crawling Kingsnake,” Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Easy Rider Blues,” and Taj Mahal’s “Little Red Hen” really stand out for me – I really can’t fault the man as far as these three tracks go (I can’t really fault him on any other tracks either, but these three stand out for me).

Howell takes songs by the scruff of the neck and gives them his own particular influence. He changes them but never loses the essence of the original, and that’s the way it should be as far as I’m concerned.
This CD would make a very good addition to any blues collection.

--- Terry Clear

Steve Howell already has two albums of exquisite country blues under his belt. Both were well-received and Howell received much praise for his outstanding guitar work and expressive vocals. His latest release, Since I Saw You Last (Out Of The Past Music), is a more diverse affair, as Howell effortlessly shifts from country blues to rockabilly to R&B.

While there’s plenty of good blues to be found here (including Memphis pre-war legend Frank Stokes’ “Downtown Blues” that kicks the CD off in excellent, toe-tapping fashion, a gentle interpretation of Mance Lipscomb’s “Charlie James,” Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Easy Rider Blues,” John Lee Hooker’s “Crawlin’ Kingsnake,” and Taj Mahal’s “Little Red Hen”), there are also some pleasant surprises. “Acadian Lullaby” has a lovely Louisiana-meets-Texas groove, and the old Sun Records rockabilly classic, “Red Cadillac & A Black Moustache,” gets reworked into a wistful country tune.

The rock and roller, “Farmer John,” written by Don & Dewey in the early ’60s, features some nasty slide guitar by Arnie Cottrell and a killer electric guitar break from Chris Michaels. The New Orleans R&B classic, “I Won’t Cry” (originally done by the Tan Canary, Johnny Adams) features a great vocal from Howell, as does another oldie, “Since I Fell For You,” which also puts Howell’s guitar skills front and center. “Ready for the River,” the ’20s standard that mixes blues and vaudeville influences closes the disc out with gentle good humor.

The best thing about the album is its warmth and intimacy. The production is so good, that it sounds like Howell is actually playing in your living room and his rapport with the wonderful accompanying band (including Cottrell and Michaels, along with Joe Osborn (bass, 12-string guitar), Darren Osborn (drums, percussion, keyboards, strings), Dave Hoffpauir (drums , vocals), and Brian Basco (keyboards, string) sounds like a bunch of old friends getting together to play a few tunes. Fortunately, we have the privilege of listening to this get-together. Since I Saw You Last is highly recommended to guitar fans of all genres.

--- Graham Clarke


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