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When acoustic blues was first being picked up by white blues enthusiasts, it was the guitar virtuosity that was the focus; in the last few decades though, there has been a sharp increase in performers who can both play and sing convincingly. Marshall, Texas born Steve Howell is one of these. He was inspired to start moving beyond simple guitar strumming by seeing Mississippi John Hurt in 1965 (Steve was thirteen at the time), and he references that event on this set with covers of Hurt’s ‘Louis Collins’ and ‘Got The Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied’. Steve’s warm voice and his very accomplished but never flashy for its own sake, guitar work come across well on these, and on the other eight tracks here. He is aided and abetted by bass player and co-producer Jason. Other vintage blues numbers come courtesy of Jim Jackson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Bo Carter, whilst Steve’s interest in jazz is demonstrated on items like the opening ‘Lulu’s Back In Town’ (via Fats Waller), the title track from singer and trombonist Jack Teagarden, a hero of Steve’s, the medley of ‘Limehouse Blues/ After You’ve Gone’, and ‘Basin Street Blues’ from Louis Armstrong. Satchmo was also responsible for Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Rocking Chair’, the closing number of this very fine, warm-hearted and entertaining set.
Curious fact: Steve actually spent three and a half years living in Haverfordwest, Wales in the 70s when he was in the US Navy. Yes, he did play around the local folk clubs with Arnie Cottrell before returning to the USA in 1977.
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