2010 / Real Music Eversound
Review by Michael Debbage
Last year Real Music introduced us to the gorgeous music of the understated Welsh acoustic guitarist Mike Howe via his fantastic debut Time Stands Still. One year later Round River arrives and some things have changed. Instead of 55 minutes of soul stirring music, Howe extends his new creation to nearly 58 minutes. Otherwise his listeners are provided with another soul stirring reflective recording that will allow you to escape to your favorite imaginative getaway.
Clearly Howe was not planning on making many changes considering how beautiful his impressive debut turned out. Once again Howe provides all the instrumentation though it is mostly about the acoustic saint and his guitar and a gently paced bass. On some occasions there is some very soft non intrusive percussion that provides some additional hues to his compositions, the more obvious tracks receiving this treatment being “Meet You There”, “River Round” and the closing track “Where We Once Stood.” But ultimately it is about Howe and the bare essentials of his beautiful music.
Melodically speaking the most obvious tracks are “Ribbons and Sky”, “The Fisherman” and then leaving almost the best for last courtesy of the alluring “I’ll See You Tomorrow”, which would compete with even the best moments found on his debut. In contrast, there is the slightly more complex “Cadair Idris” that runs over five and half minutes but never at the expense of fracturing the pastoral theme that is ever present on Round River. Keep in mind that Howe is an ecologist by day, thus his music has not only entertainment value, but it is almost a mission statement of what is near and dear to Howe, being a steward to the gift of God’s wonderful creation called earth.
A successful Hollywood movie on many occasions receives the sequel treatment that takes the approach of maximizing profits at the expense of diminishing creative returns. And then there are the exceptions like Indiana Jones, Shrek and more recently Toy Story. Howe’s latest creation is essentially a sequel to 2009’s Time Stands Still but fortunately it plays out like the latter movies. Whether he can do it a third time or needs to make some creative changes remains to be seen. But for now sit and lay your head back in your big inner tube and soak in the sun as you drift down the slow and easy indolent musical waters of Round River. Embrace the soft gentle rhythmic meandering of the music that will once again wipe away all your concerns of any challenging day.
October 3, 2010