Island of Anywhere
2011 / Real Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Apparently it is becoming an annual event to expect a new creative release from the Welsh guitarist who has somehow managed to release three releases in the same amount of years. How he manages to write his beautiful music at his current rate is amazing. And while this is once again another splendid creation there is this underlying feeling of diminished returns as Howe continues to play it safe with his unobtrusive pastoral instrumental mix found on Island Of Anywhere. Though be ready for a few surprises.
The pleasantries begin immediately with the opening track “Beyond The Mountains” which is reminiscent of Sting’s “Fields Of Gold”. Needless to say comparisons with such a gorgeous song mean nothing but the ultimate compliment but it is not without Howe caressing the strings to create his own beautiful yet unassuming composition. The follow up track “Flowers Of Penberi” is somewhat more flirtatious while “In That Moment” has a more mid tempo melancholy feel to it.
The above pattern repeats itself for the most part but there are a few exceptions. First there is the more driven “Waves On The Shore” where Mike stretches himself a little but not at the expense of ruining the pastoral theme. Further musical exploration occurs on “Summer’s Here” that is as optimistic as the season of its namesake. There is even horn like instrumentation courtesy of Howe’s keyboards. While the risk is appreciated this song could have been much more successful with an outside musician assist on the drums and horns. Kudos to Howe, for his willingness to step aside of his musical boundaries. Though Howe gets it completely right on the embellishments found on “Sunset” with Howe placing the electric guitar up front and center.
This may bring Howe to somewhat of a musical crossroad who has once again produced another solid recording but may have exhausted the successful formula that has resulted in these three very fine recordings. Howe deserves a significant rest to recharge his creative batteries and judging by his already impressive recording portfolio who knows what musical island is next. Meanwhile enjoy Howe’s Island Of Anywhere from gorgeous sunrise to sweet sunset.
January 15, 2012