Island of Anywhere
2011 / Real Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Island of Anywhere is the third solo acoustic guitar release from Welsh composer and ecologist Mike Howe. Howe’s first two albums with the Real Music label, Time Stands Still (2009) and Round River (2010), provide listeners with a peaceful respite from the hectic pace and harsh realities of everyday life, and Island of Anywhere picks up the thread where the other two albums left off. Most of the seventeen tracks are solo acoustic guitar and a few feature Howe on bass, keyboards, and percussion as well. For me, Howe’s music suggests images of walking in the country and happening by someone sitting against a tree playing his or her guitar, completely lost in the music. There is nothing fancy or showy about Howe’s music - it is gentle, honest, and from the heart, and those qualities can be breathtaking in their own right. Nothing will jump out at you and demand attention - this is more like an inviting patch of sunshine beckoning you to come and relax for a while. With all of the forces demanding our attention, this quiet approach is both much needed and welcome.
Island of Anywhere opens with “Beyond the Mountains,” a gorgeous ballad that reminds me a bit of Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” Warm and flowing like a happy daydream, it’s a stellar beginning. “Flowers of Penberi” evokes images of wildflowers gently moving to the rhythm of a breeze. “Waves on the Shore” picks up the tempo a bit and changes to more of a folk song mode. Constantly moving but never in a rush, this is a favorite. “Stray Birds” has a melancholy feeling that is not without hope. Light percussion in the background adds a bit of emphasis to the beat - a nice contrast to the flowing quality of the guitar. The title track is pure musical sunshine - blissful and serene. The reflective “This Life” is wordlessly philosophical about simplicity and contentment. “Sorry For What I Said” conveys humility, sincerity, and regret - a heartfelt beauty. “Pale Blue Dot” is another stand-out. More ambient than melodic, washes of keyboard color add an ethereal feeling while the guitar plays a simple, uncomplicated melody that conveys a sense of wonder and openness. “Days Gone By” ends this lovely collection with peaceful, dreamy nostalgia that accepts the past rather than longing for it.
With three incredible albums to his credit, Mike Howe has created a musical niche for himself that will be hard to top for peaceful solo guitar that evokes a sense of well-being and calm. Island of Anywhere is available wherever Real Music albums are sold. Very highly recommended!
October 17, 2011