I have had the pleasure of seeing John Howie Jr. on the stage a few times, and the misfortune to miss him a few more. When I saw him at Puckett’s in Charlotte a few months back, John Howie remarked to the audience that when someone mentions Country music, it can mean many different things. This is very true, thanks to the marketing ploys of the music industry. Yet, as John Howie noted, there is really only one kind of genuine country music. It was ironic because I had been involved in a discussion about the very same thing on a music forum not long before this. I garnered the usual responses such as “Oh, Come on, it’s ALL country music.” Oh yeah? Say’s who? Corporate producers? Mainstream country radio? The Country Music channel? Or maybe people whose sole introduction to the genre was the aforementioned. None other than Country megastar George Jones begged to differ when he asserted that County music has been “hijacked”. Country-Pop abounds on the radio and TV screens. But real Country is out there too. Being played and heard by people who live it, and more people who do know the difference. John Howie, Jr. and others like him insure that the Country spirit will never die.
There is no doubt whatsoever that John Howie Jr. is a songwriter, singer, and performer in the best tradition of genuine County music. Following in the footsteps of people like Hank William, Sr. Floyd Tillman, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and George Strait. I am not going to review this CD in my usual track by track manner, because they are ALL excellent songs. Instead I am going to try to relate the feel and composition of the album. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of true Country music is its simplicity of form, which lends itself to a world of expression. “Leavin’ Tomorrow” does this admirably.
“Leavin’ Yesterday” is clearly inspired by traditional Country music and Honkytonk, yet indubitably bears John Howie, Jr.’s own stamp. John Howie draws from a number of influences, and is not limited to any particular one. ‘Watch Me Fall” is simply magnificent. I saw John Howie perform this at Pucketts and was blown away, and I was thrilled to see it on this album. “Handful of Heartache” and “I’m so Happy I Could Cry” are stellar examples of classic Honky-Tonk. Slower numbers include “Downhill”, “I Don’t Mind Cryin’”, “AAA”, while “Makes the Three of Us” ( one of my favorites) and “Ive Found Someone New” would make even The Possum cry. “The Last Guitar Singer” and “Dead Man’s Suit” are in sort of a George Strait mold, and make me think of driving under the endless sky from horizon to horizon. “Back to Basics” brings the Country greats of the ’70′s to mind, and “Trying Not to Think” is pure country. The final song is the title track, the awesome “Leavin’ Yesterday”. This is another song of loss, but not of the mournful sort. Galloping into a figurative sunset, this is a perfect road song, and ends the CD on an appropriate, energetic note.
‘Leavin’ Yesterday” is not to be missed by anyone who appreciates Country music, Honkytonk, or any underground music with genuine roots and contemporary expression. The other band members are truly accomplished in their own right, and this is evident from the sheer excellence of this CD. Production is great, and everything is right where it should be.
A couple of videos of John Howie Jr. from their Pucketts show are here : http://youtu.be/pRwxehcBKa8
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