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Immediately I heard the voice and beautiful, organic sound wafting from the speakers on placing Alice Howe’s album on my player I became hooked. Whisked away to another place. Taken in part, back in time she reminds me when it comes to beauty and effortless fashion she eases, gracefully into, and through a song of the late California-based singer-songwriter Kate Wolf.


It is a compliment I hand out sparingly. Such the high standing in which Wolf is held. You’ve Been Away So Long might span only five songs but with the fine work of Jeff Fielder (acoustic, electric guitar, Dobro, harmony vocals) and Moe Provencher (electric bass) in support, Howe (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) sees her songs enriched in a pure acoustic sound. “Homeland Blues” kicks away the EP in excellent fashion. It is followed by two exquisite songs in “Nothing But You” and the inviting country waltz “Make A Fool Out Of Me” (Howe’s homage to Steve Martin). I could wax lyrical about all three since there is not a hair’s breadth between them! And they are all so beautiful. Fielder's Dobro on the likes of “Homeland Blues” and flowing vocals of Howe take my ears both back in time and to another world (to the seamless, simple melodies and lyrical style of Wolf). 


Boston singer-songwriter Howe’s years in the Pacific North West is represented on here, both in the location it was recorded (Seattle) and strains heard in the graceful tone of her voice and sympathetic playing. Going back to “Homeland Blues” there is, apart from the folk country basics some beautiful old style acoustic blues in the mix. It doesn’t get much better than this!  


While “Don’t Worry Honey” doesn’t hit the same heights she has woven together. Maybe it is due to the mellow feel, but it does grow on you (and if wasn't for the other tracks figure among most people's best work; wonderful acoustic guitar picking). To close she has a real fine one in the foot-loose “You’ve Been Away So Long”, here she speaks of how her love has left her on her own as she speaks of belonging in one’s own skin. With the EP gaining coverage I guess she will be over here in the not too distant future, so be vigilant regarding dates not only near you but those a little farther away.


                                                            Maurice Hope    

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