What you have here, music fan, is the first long-playing record released by Kenny Howes in a long time. With several DIY titles under his belt, Kenny today finds himself a veteran of the 1990s power-pop underground. Fortunately, while he has sustained a battle scar or two along the way, he hasn’t yet earned the Purple Heart (or worse).
Hailing from Mulberry, Florida, Howes became a fixture in the robust music cultures of early 1990s Tallahassee, Florida and late 1990s Atlanta, Georgia - gigging often, soaking up influences wherever possible and touring whenever affordable.
Along the way, he recorded four DIY solo albums (overdubbing the vocal parts and other instruments himself, aided by drummer Kelly Shane), released two compilation discs, recorded another with a full group, rubbed shoulders with heroes and peers alike, and participated in numerous side projects, all with varying degrees of success.
These volumes of Howes’ solo work presented his own evolving style of pop-rock songcraft with lilting melodies, layered vocal harmonies, tales of boy-meets-girl with dashes of crypticism, and a windfall of 1960s electric guitar tones and combo organ sounds, before such could be simply dialed up on a computer. All of this crashing along to the manic drumming of Mr. Shane, his consistent recording partner.
And here we are today, with Tornadoes Here And Past. Which, like all of Kenny’s records, tells many stories.
“Cannot Remember” kicks off the program, its folky introduction leading the way to a tale of times past and perspective, accented (like so much of Howes’ work) by the familiar sound of the Rickenbacker electric 12-string.
Three numbers on this LP are collaborations with famed Los Angeles music veteran Tony Valenziano. Originally written and recorded in California by their group The Ultra Suede, Kenny here tries his hand at “Slip On By,” “Foxy Jackie” and “Love Forever,” numbers which express their optimism via the flavor of 1970s AM radio pop.
Other than the familiar team of Howes and Shane, there are two very special guests on this record. Guitarist Marty Willson-Piper happened to be in Atlanta during these recording sessions (his band The Church having just completed their 2011 U.S. Tour), and he happily came by the studio to play some guitar “once we promised to take him to the best record shop in town,” says Kenny. Marty’s lead guitar contribution to the number “Pour Your Heart Out To Me” appropriately adds to the track’s dreamy vibe.
There’s also a notable appearance by Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens, who duets with Kenny on the introspective
“Juvenile Sage.” Pat and Kenny, who have worked together off and on for ages now, were in the thick of an acoustic tour of Texas when Pat took the time to record his vocal track. “The Smithereens have always been such an important band to me,” says Kenny. “Having Pat sing on my record is a real kick.”
A favorite among these new recordings is the somewhat motivational but completely silly “People Are Doing Stuff.” Its catchy message could mean everything, or absolutely nothing...decide for yourself. Plus, dig the Stylophone.
The other titles speak for themselves: “Five Minutes Of Rain” displays a bitterweet mood that would make Albert Hammond Sr. proud; “Silence And Camouflage” and “You Don’t Say Anything” are big rockers with straightforward narratives; and “(We Don’t Get To Say) Goodnight” sends the listener off to the sunset, bidding a fair adieu, until next time.
All in the style of Kenny Howes.