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reviews of the moment
JOHN HOWIE, JR. & THE ROSEWOOD BLUFF
For all the ways that John Howie, Jr. has divided his creative attention in the past year, one would think that it would dilute his efforts toward his principal band the Rosewood Bluff, but that’s absolutely not so. He flirted with his punk roots pounding the skins for the P-90s and with the Sweethearts, he dug deep into the lonesome Michael Hurley-style balladry he built on which his reputation was built. Not surprisingly, elements of both project exist in the Rosewood Bluff’s new album Leavin’ Yesterday to some extent, but this is Howie’s most country-forward album. Most of the “alt” subtext is washed away and Howie favors clean production, big twang and his downy baritone at the forefront of 13 songs that invoke everyone from Ronnie Milsap to Jim Lauderdale to Merle Haggard. Hang on to the handkerchief, because there’s still a few that cut straight to the heart, namely “I Don’t Mind Cryin’,” where the little bit of grit in Howie’s voice scuffs up Nathan Golub’s pristine pedal steel. Where this album excels, however, is with its excellent pop sensibilities and catchy choruses. Howie throws it back to the
Golden Age of country on “Last Great Guitar Slinger,” waxing on the dashing outlaw guitar man with Howie himself as the loveable loser on the wrong end of the hero’s foibles. He shows how rangy his voice can be through the burnished honky tonk of “Back to Basics” and the Jayhawk-y country rock of “Dead Man’s Suit,” before capping it off with the walloping title track. On Leavin’ Yesterday, Howie has created and album built for country radio, but it’s almost too good for it at the same time.
John Howie, Jr. & the Rosewood Bluff will perform at the Blind Tiger on Thursday.