Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Heyward Howkins debut "The Hale and Hearty"- is inspired and original
Heyward Howkins truly waxes poetic on his debut Album "The Hale and Hearty" spinning musical tales that more often than not feel more like sonic art pieces than songs. With a crisp clear vocal performance that is as malleable as mercury, and lyrics that can stray into some obtuse passages, he is very much the whimsical story teller leading you down his own rabbit hole. There are eleven songs on display here and all are totally engaging. The production flourishes can sometimes induce "whaaat?" but these surprising musical choices all work. For example, in Plume and Orange the melodic structure weaves tightly with the guitar work and syncopated drum beat only to give way to an uplifting middle section that feels so free that it induces chills- only to give way to tasty musical breaks complete with a Farfisa sounding organ that harkins back to something you might here in a post punk 79-ish Elvis Costello song. It is a heady, brilliant production and the great thing is it feels like jazz in the sense that these seemingly "out of left field" musical accompaniments (that are sprinkled throughout this album) do not feel overly wrought or overly composed but more like flashes of creative inspirations.
I love Wes Anderson films. The Raucous Calls of Morning (the 6th track) simply belongs in one of Wes' films. It has this beautiful sweeping feel with it's stair stepping piano and glossy harmonies floating around Heyward's bittersweet vocals, "The raucous calls of morning won't beat on your door... and I'm not on board with back and forth...to keep accord we hammer toward not being so hard". The dreamy title track Hale and Hearty with lyrics that can perplex moves sweetly to a big conclusion. Spanish Moss seems to speak of two cultures that collide or do they? Again, the lyrics are open to interpretation but Heywood sparkles with the well phrased melodies. In The Live Oak the guitar lines at times verge on the fringe of what could be a Thom Yorke composition but only for seconds as Heyward is not content to stay in one place for very long letting this musical arc feel like a free form mini surreal movie.
There is much more to gleam on The Hale and Hearty like the hobo train feel of "Cocaine Bill" or "Hudson Piers" that plays like a amalgam of 1920's ragtime/ porch blues/ dance hall music or the exhilarating glammy pop of "Flash Mob"- "street steam... mimics a movie's mystique... when police bring heat and the only thing packed was your keys and your teeth... in a hoody you save for occasions like these."
In the end, The Hale and Hearty is a brilliant piece of work. The songs exist as orchestrations of sorts, each element important to the puzzle. Heyward's vocals also serve as an instrument of sorts as his fluid tone and vocal style are central to each song even if the lyrics can, at times, seem not to make sense. One wonders if the sounds of the words are really more important then their meaning. To me, the lyrical poetry is solid and the interpretive nature of the songwriting only stirs the imagination.
Bravo Mr. Heyward Howkins for this truly inspired, original piece of art.
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