Steve Howell & The Mighty Men

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men

Texas troubadour Steve Howell & The Mighty Men return with another round of superb renditions of songs with classic melodies that run the gamut of gospel, blues, pop, jazz, and soul on their fifth album, 99 1/2 Won’t Do. The ten-song collection finds the quartet doing what they do best, working the angles, fleshing out the depths of each song, and playing them with love and sincerity. Howell is joined once again by Jason Weinheimer, the one-man army, who recorded, produced, engineered, and played keys and bass on the album. The other mighty men are guitarist Chris Michaels and drummer Dave Hoffpauir, who all take pride in playing vintage instruments to create that sweet sound and unmistakable cool vibe.

Opening track, “I’m A Little Mixed Up,” first recorded by Betty James and again later by Koko Taylor for Chess records, is given a soulful update with a smooth groove and shimmering guitars. The title track, “99 ½,” is an early gospel number recorded by Sister Rosetta, Dorothy Love Coates, and others, not to be confused with the Wilson Pickett tune of the same name. Howell and crew deliver a laid-back bluesy shuffle version of the soul prototype. The first of four instrumentals, “San Francisco,” works the sublime melody line of the 60’s counterculture anthem bringing out its delicate features and dynamic chord structure. Made famous by The Animals in 1965 the pleading “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” is recreated as a guitar duet with Howell and Michaels deftly taking turns with the lead line.

Howell stays true to the original piano driven version of the ballad “Talk To Me, Talk To Me,” and the Mighty Men join an extensive list of musicians, who have recorded the traditional gospel hymn “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” adding their easy swinging take to the lexicon. Howell pays tribute to fellow Arkansas traveler Charlie Rich on “Who Will The Next Fool Be?,” a deep cut from his early days at Sun Records. The radio ready update of “Stone Pony Blues” gently brings Charlie Patton’s Delta Blues into the 21st century with a slow burning fire. The harpsichord and strings are stripped away from the one hit wonder “Walk Away Renee,” yet the descending chromatic bass melody remains on this dreamy version of the baroque pop song from 1966.

For the finale, The Mighty Men pay homage to the guitar rock instrumentals of the 60’s with a smooth take on the spaghetti western anthem “Apache.” Steve Howell & The Mighty Men certainly know how to mine for great tunes and pick surprising selections on another fine album of interesting compositions.

Rick J Bowen



99 1/2 WON’T DO


MARCH 15, 2024