Steve Howell & Jason Weinheimer – History Rhymes | Album Review

Steve Howell & Jason Weinheimer – History Rhymes

Out Of The Past Music – 2019

12 tracks; 50 minutes

East Texas-based, Steve Howell has been fascinated by finger-picking guitar since he heard Mississippi John Hurt back in the 60’s. This is his eighth album release and he has also produced a guide Fingerpicking Early Jazz Standards.   Previous albums have been credited to Steve Howell & The Mighty Men but this one, without any drums or percussion is credited to Steve and Mighty Men bassist Jason Weinheimer who are assisted by Dan Sumner on guitar and David Dodson on mandolin and banjo.

As on the Mighty Men albums, Steve has gone for songs from writers and performers from the past (his record label is most appropriate), including Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bukka White and The Rev Gary Davis from the blues side and Billy Higgins, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer from the jazz side, plus a couple of traditional folk songs.

The music is laid back, particularly Steve’s vocals which are quiet and considered. The acoustic playing is consistently good and the music passes by like a warm evening. Steve’s notes on the history of the songs are informative and interesting, this reviewer picking up on the fact that heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson was refused passage on the Titanic because of his color, Leadbelly having to omit the verse about this fact when playing his song to a white audience. The liner notes also make reference to the fact that “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (Billy Higgins and Benton Overstreet) was the first completely African-American recording – Ethel Waters singing, Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra, songwriters and record label. The title of the album comes from a Mark Twain quote: “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”.

Highlights include these three contrasting songs:
Track 3 “Shuckin’ Sugar”. This version has delicate mandolin work in a gentle reading of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s song;

Track 4 “Jack Of Diamonds”. The stately reading of the traditional song reveals its British folk origins as well as its adaptation to various American songs about making alcohol.

Track 7 “Everybody Loves My Baby”. The 1920’s jazz origins of the song (recorded by Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller amongst others) come across very well, Steve giving us his most animated vocal here.

Fans of acoustic finger-picking and old-time songs will enjoy this disc which blends blues, jazz, country and folk influences.

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