|On his ninth album, “Long Ago,” Texas guitarist and vocalist, Steve Howell, continues a remarkable creative run that has lasted over a decade exploring the depths of the great American songbook. “I am a lover of American music from the first half of the 20th century. I like it rural, urban, country blues, traditional jazz, Appalachian music, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. I love it all, “says Howell about his mission to play as much music as he can.
This new release finds Howell collaborating once again with bassist Jason Weinheimer and jazz guitar journeyman Dan Sumner, joining him on arch top and flat top acoustic guitars, to produce a trio recording that is absolutely the definition of easy listening. The eleven tracks include timeless jazz standards and hidden gems from the past, which Howell brings to fresh light by adding vocals and singing lyrics that time may have forgotten. His velvety baritone and soothing delivery bring the listener up close and personal to the experience, allowing us to drink in every emotional detail and pause to ponder the significance of every word, as only a master storyteller can do.
The sweet swinging tune from the 1920’s, ‘Singing The Blues,’ opens the album and sets the tone for things to come with Howell and Weinheimer melding together as the rhythm section, while Sumner adds tasteful leads that support the vocal melody. Howell takes cues from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra on his spacious reading of ‘Angel Eyes.’ He then pays tribute to fellow red dirt poet Percy Mayfield on ‘Please Send Me Someone To Love,’ written for Ray Charles by the Louisiana native in 1950. The lover’s plea, ‘Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me,’ is modeled after the 1959 Mose Allison version and features a spry solo from Sumner. With Howell’s take on the well-known Horace Silver jazz standard, ‘Song For My Father,’ he creates his own loving homage to his dad. The fellas show off their skills on those beautiful arch topped guitars on the bossa nova standard ‘Dindi’ and get back to basics on a soulful reading of ‘Nothing But The Blues.’
Howell lightens the mood with a snappy number, ‘Z’s,’ and takes the swing era hit ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,’ back to its Yiddish roots with an oom–pah beat underpinning. The lovely melodic instrumental track, ‘I’ll Remember April,’ has a lilting Spanish guitar feel, and the Johnny Mercer ballad, ‘I Thought About You,’ is another great composition that Howell saves from obscurity. The lyrics were originally written as a breakup song, but here he is singing more about his love for all the songs of yesteryear that seem to have been left by the wayside.
This collection of songs; “Long Ago,” are lovingly brought back to life to remind us that they were once popular songs of the day, heard on the radio, in film and in dance halls; music that was and still is sophisticated and timeless. Howell, Sumner and Weinheimer have capitalized on that magic once again.
Rick J Bowen
Steve Howell is a fingerstyle guitarist and vocalist based in East Texas. His nine album releases have garnered wide international radio airplay and nearly unanimous critical acclaim. A lifelong lover of rural, folk-blues styles and traditional jazz, his chord melody-rooted guitar approach lends itself splendidly to his chosen repertoire and has been featured in the Hal Leonard-published “Fingerpicking Early Jazz Standards,” a book containing fifteen of his arrangements of classic tunes. A veteran of the East Texas-North Louisiana music scene since the 1970’s, he has presented his music over the years from the United Kingdom to Oregon and many places in between. With the quartet, Steve Howell and The Mighty Men, he has recorded and played for nearly thirty years from Little Rock to Shreveport and Memphis to Houston. He also spent several years recording and playing gigs with the great Wrecking Crew bassist, Joe Osborn. Steve is the Recipient of the 2012 Academy of Texas Music Historical Significance Award.
A veteran songwriter and performer, Jason Weinheimer has spent the last decade focused on recording and producing albums for other artists at his studio, Fellowship Hall Sound www.fellowshiphallsound.com. He has recorded albums by John Moreland, Buddy Flett, and Jim Mize, among many others. In addition to his studio work, he plays bass in a few bands, most notably Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, and Steve Howell & the Mighty Men. His solo album “Skies Are Grey” was released in 2016 under the name The Libras.
Dan Sumner is a Louisiana-based guitarist, arranger and music producer. He is an internationally acclaimed guitarist who performs and tours the world regularly with acts such as Doug Duffey and BADD, Louisiana Soul Revival, Steve Howell, Louis Romanos Quartet, LA Legacy Jazz Band, Glynn Styler, Janice Jaffee and many others. He is a sponsored Benedetto Artist and plays two custom-made Benedetto archtop Jazz guitars. He owns and operates Fort Sumner Studio where he has recorded and/or produced dozens of critically-acclaimed albums by artists such as: Doug Duffey and BADD, Astro Motel, Logan and the Legendaries, The Vidrines, Gin Mobsters, Tito and the Fabulous Freeloaders, Louisiana Soul Revival featuring Doug Duffey, Fred Brown, The Gold Dust Mannequins, Jig the Alien, Bunki, and many others.