I like writing about John Howard, the singer songwriter signed and dropped by CBS in the 1970s, who re-emerged in a digital age of blogs and iTunes as a cult artist, beloved by younger artists and now producing some of his best work, mostly recorded at his home in Spain. It’s a good tale for journalists about the highs and lows of the music industry with at its heart a bloke, a piano and some good tunes.
After a prolific recent spell of around eight new album releases in as many years his latest release is a look back to his time as a young folk singer in his native north west of England in the early 1970s. Here he compiles five unearthed tracks, recorded on piano or guitar in one take at his family home in Ramsbottom, Lancashire, between 1970 and 1972, with no overdubs on a half broken TS1000 Grundig 4-track reel-to reel.
The results, recorded by this teenager who was yet to move to London and then playing the north west folk clubs, shows clearly his influences at the time, from Laura Nyro to Bob Dylan and Roy Harper. But this is no mere work of a wannabe someone else. On the EP’s lead track, My Time Will Be No Others But My Own, its clear how he has influenced others, most notably Darren Hayman, who Howard later collaborated with.
There are also echoes of The Mountain Goats home recorded, lo-fi classic All Hail West Texas, from 2002 and coincidentally reissued this month. This was recorded in similar fashion in one take on a Panasonic boombox.
Turns out that back in his home in the 1970s the teenage John Howard was ahead of the game rather than just another long haired folk singer with a deft touch on the piano. Dismiss this release as mere nostalgia at your peril.
by Joe Lepper
For more information about John Howard, read our feature Time Will Heal Things here.