Soulful pop from sinuous-voiced Philly singer-songwriter. Keep an ear on those guitars – there’s magic hidden in those little decorations. 

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Back in July we met Philly singer-songwriter Heyward Howkins. He was offering a first look at two of the tracks from his new LP “Be Frank, Furness”.  He released the full-length earlier this month (you can purchase it via bandcamp here) including a limited edition run of vinyl (only 200 copies, for the price of which you get the download anyway, and unlimited mobile access. That is a deal right there.).  And I am happy to say that it is every bit as delightful as those early tracks suggested it would be.

I do issue a small warning – he has such a playful way with words and his delivery is so fluid that I have spent most of today fruitlessly trying to determine exactly what he is singing about it. The failure hasn’t really bothered me. His own enjoyment in enunciation, the playful way in which he caresses his lyrics as he conjures them from his mouth, transmits entirely; it’s utterly impossible not to feel bewitched and energised by those slippery words. And let’s not forget, a certain Michael Stipe began his singing career even more unintelligbly.

“Nogales” sets us off at a good lick with a lively drum sound and you need to listen out for several delicious strums adding sunshine to this tale of latin romance (I think..).  “Rare Earths” sees him in more contemplative mood, with some sweetly melancholic harmonies and arresting, unusual percussion.  I quickly developed a soft spot for the comfy bounce of “Praline Country” (another one of my standing musical weaknesses is a well-timed “woo woo” backing vocal) and “Be Frank, Furness” features some of those minimal but telling guitar figures doing powerful work in the background. ‘Pundit” is welcome anytime, containing the twin sadnesses of the backing vocals (see “woo woos” above) and the organ, and I really enjoy the way the guitars play around each other under the verse.  “Sweet Tea Oleander” has that lovely work on keys and the album finishes with the pretty folk-pop of “Flimsy Stock”.

If you’re in the right country, you can catch Heyward live at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia on December 12th. I’d go if I could.