May 19 brought the release ofBarna Howard’s second full length,Quite A Feelin’, on Portland, Oregon’s Mama Bird Recording Co, co-released by Loose Music in Europe. Another dapper release from the label that brought us both Denver albums (ssktda favorites) Howard’s minimalist folk will poke holes through your senses and heart alike. Preferring to keep it simple in the vein of his debut self-titled effort, Quite A Feelin’ doesn’t wander far from that ethos. This disc is deep in reflection and hometown blues, longing for the simplicity of Howard's time growing up in Eureka, Missouri, deep in the heart of Midwest America. Meanwhile, it's equally stacked with songs epitomizing his new adopted homebase of Portland -- a city rich in musical talent and, perhaps more notably, a symbiotic cohesion, where everyone seems to be right there to further along the career of a compatriot. All of this works together to contibute to the quality of music Howard births.
Noting that the disc has equal parts Prine and Van Zandt with a smattering of Kristofferson and Wainwright may be high praise, but it's not loosely warranted. Howard doesn't opt for sad sack folk songs; there’s stark humor, yet plenty room for tongue-in-cheek turns of phrase and classic storytelling. Most comfortable with his voice and an acoustic axe, Howard delivers minimal accompaniment right where it counts. The mandolin and dobro fills on “Notches on a Frame” and pedal steel on “Lend Me a Moment,” are a couple memorable highlights. I can’t be certain but I’ve detected that the Denver boys may be the sharers of the jug of wine around the fire on “Pull Us Back Or Wind Us Up”.
Quite A Feelin’ can easily become the soundtrack of many a summer weekend -- a definite “press play and walk away” for any roots music enthusiast. These are songs that can provoke thought and reasoning. While you’re playing them back in your mind, whilst battling the travails of the day, there’s a defining moment of lucidity as the lyrics resonate in true ‘aha’ fashion. I’ve yet to figure how this record has slipped past so many critics, even the so-called ‘Americana bloggers’ — perhaps even they don’t seem to dig deep enough. Maybe Barna Howard is too roots for the broad albeit hackneyed Americana banner -- too folk for folks, and too real to steal.
Regardless, cheers to Barna Howard for a record that will most likely end up in my best of 2015 list. And cheers to Mama Bird Recording Co for putting out records of this stature. Keep ‘em comin’, gentlemen. (+words: scott zuppardo+)
(As featured at No Depression 6/24/15)