There’s a standard introduction for an alternative and indie music reviewer when reviewing a collection of piano music, such as John Howard’s Dreaming I Am Waking, Piano Music For My Father.
“This is out of my comfort zone.”
But is it?
This collection of piano instrumentals from 1970s singer song writer turned 2000s independent artist, may not have the vocals to steer it, but the listener soon finds their way.
There’s a familiarity to most of the tracks, which have been written to evoke the John Howard family’s search for a home during the mid 20th century.
As a result, it’s a comforting album about notions of ‘home’.
Opener First Steps perfectly encapsulates his parent’s first steps into a brand-new council house. Remember these homes? (For anyone younger, they were social housing for families, which Margaret Thatcher sold. They are now mostly owned by private landlords, who offer high rents and insecurity to the families of the 21st century instead.)
Is the thoughtful melody of this opener evoking the loss of social housing as much as the joy of finding a new home?
Distances is very familiar too. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is it half a chorus from Billy Joel? I keep hearing the lyrics ‘she moves’ here. Oh, well. It’ll come to me at some point.
Piano Piece in F, is another with those familiar melodies. Half a hymn, half pop song of old.
This is a theme that carries on, especially on Pour the Cup for Sleep to Claim You. Its reverb paints a picture of an old living room piano. It’s a rare track with vocals, with Howard dusting off his choral effects to add to its echoes of the past.
So while starting off looking at reviewing something out of my zone, listening to this treat of a collection from John Howard has ended up being one of the most familiar albums I’ve heard for a while.
By Joe Lepper
For more information see John Howard’s Facebook page here.