Out of the Past Music
CD: 10 Songs, 35:16 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Acoustic Blues, Duo Album, Pre-War Blues
Dear Constant Readers: For those of you who’ve never perused my reviews, you should know something. For those of you who have, you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I’m not partial to blues CD’s full of covers, and review them as “picks” if I absolutely must. Why? I’m interested in artists’ own creations, their new takes on a genre born of timeless adversity.
However, Texan Steve Howell and Arkansas’ Jason Weinheimer have found a clever loophole. The ten selections on their newest album might well be played A Hundred Years from Today. They’re classics any aficionado would recognize, from Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Goin’ Back to Florida” to Mississippi John Hurt’s “Got the Blues/Can’t be Satisfied” to the title track by Joe Young, Ned Washington and Victor Young.
Performing as a duo, Howell and Weinheimer pay homage to pre-war blues and a vintage style that never goes out of style. For some, especially those new to the genre, it might be underwhelming and too reminiscent of folk music. Steve Howell’s dry talk-singing, combined with Jason Weinheimer’s melodic but understated acoustic guitar, is an acquired taste. One might ask: Where’s the juice, the oomph, the pizzazz? In truth, this kind of music doesn’t rely on such things, but on a “peaceful, easy feeling,” as the Eagles said. This is kick-back-in-your-“Rocking Chair” blues, not boogie-and-chug-a-beer blues.
This duo’s Internet biographies, provided by Blind Raccoon, provide some revealing details: “When Steve Howell first heard Mississippi John Hurt’s happy style of finger picking country blues in 1965 at the age of thirteen, he immediately knew that the tame, folksy style of strumming the guitar was a thing out of the past for him. As his journey progressed, Mississippi John Hurt begat Blind Willie McTell and Leadbelly, who begat Robert Johnson, Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake and a host of other black acoustic guitar players and vocalists. His interest in rural, folk-blues styles and the history of the music led him to learn more about how this music came to town and melded with the horn-oriented bands prevalent in the cities, creating a strong affinity for him with the traditional jazz and New Orleans music of the first half of the twentieth century.” As for veteran performer Jason Weinheimer, 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 Steve Howell & the Mighty Men. His solo album Skies Are Grey was released in 2016 under the name The Libras.”
The following song is a very, very oldie (1929), but a goodie, originally by Hoagy Carmichael.
Track 10: “Rockin’ Chair” – “Fetch me that gin, son, ‘fore I tan your hide.” These ten words woke yours truly up from a trance, making her blink in disbelief. However, what’s more unbelievable is the transformation Time can wreak upon a body – and a mind. Howell’s guitar is at its slowest and most contemplative, and his voice hoary with years. “Old rocking chair got me, cane by my side,” our narrator begins. “Can’t get from this cabin, going nowhere.” When the thrill of life and youth is gone, and “Judgment Day is near,” what else is left to celebrate?
Blues lovers, if you enjoy songs that’ll be played A Hundred Years from Today, check this CD out!