June 26, 2012 Heyward Howkins – Hale & Hearty (album)
It’s nearly impossible to create in a bubble. Without something to inspire, to draw ideas from, one can’t make art. And Heyward Howkins is an expert at drawing from his surroundings. In his debut album, Hale & Hearty (released today), Howkins gathers stories of happiness and also of bitterness, restlessness, and often states of catatonia, an unwillingness to move forward. All of this, on the east coast, mostly around the city of Philadelphia.
The album works almost like a story book, painting pictures of drug abuse like the title track’s “have another bump ‘til it all feels right” and the bittersweet folk tune “Cocaine Bill” which tells the tale of a drug-addled friend. And sometimes it’s not the people that suffer but the city itself. One song in particular, “Spanish Moss” plays a sort of response to The Chili Pepper’s “Under The Bridge” as the singer mourns for his city to the sound of a crackling record and quiet trumpets; a corrupted and wasted place. Even the quiet closer, “Hudson Piers” discusses the tough life of blue-collar workers to the sound of a gently arpeggiated guitar.
But not every song is about suffering and loss. “Plume and Orange” uses birds as a metaphor for young love as two birds find romance. And “Flash Mob” is definitely a standout track for it’s harder hitting guitars and harsh lyrics of taking it to the streets. And, my favorite “The Raucous Calls of Morning” features some of the best female backup vocals, amplifying Heyward and creating intense tension as both sing, “we hammer towards not being so hard,” trying to do right by each other.
All around this album features some of the best folk-rock of the year both lyrically and instrumentally. Howkins uses his voice like a plucked guitar, coming in and out of the songs at will as his own guitar strums along. But the album also features an amazing string and horn section that gives the album it’s unique feeling of quiet fervor. There have already been some great folk albums out this summer (Tallest Man on Earth’s latest, for example) but few tell a story like Howkins can tell one. For some of the best Philly folklore around, check out Hale & Hearty.
P.S. If you’re in the neighborhood, Heyward Howkins is performing tomorrow in Philly at PhilaMOCA
Heyward Howkins – Raucous Calls of Morning
Heyward Howkins – Spanish Moss