Alice Howe – Visions

Album Review | Know How Music | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

2017’s You’ve Been Away So Long EP was a strong set of songs and following on, VISIONS builds nicely on what came before, widening the musical palette revealed on that first set. “Twilight” and “You Just Never Know” are pieces of smooth Folk County. Alice’s voice solo or with backing is spot on and her chiming guitar, tasteful snare drum and double bass hit the spot. “Lovin In My Baby’s Eyes” is a warm version of the Taj Mahal song. Her voice, especially on the chorus has some of Taj’s character, you can also hear the smile. Fuzbee Morse’s electric guitar, lead over Alice’s acoustic is a joy too. “Still On My Mind” is wonderfully soupy, a slow tempo hot night song. The vibrato on Alice’s voice and the strummed acoustic conjured memories of early Tracey Chapman, but the track builds with its organ and twin electric guitars into a piece of Muscle Shoals soul. “What We Got Is Gold”  is pure Acoustic Folk, Alice’s fine voice and rich picked guitar are centre stage, burnished minimalism after the previous track. “Bring It On Home To Me” is a soulful version of the Sam Cooke classic. The dry brass and the ripples of electric piano are Memphis soulful and perfect. Alice is soulful and understated, going to church without going overboard. “Too Long At The Fair” I knew from Bonnie Raitt’s 1972 Give It Up album, although the song is by Joel Zoss. Alice’s folk soul version sits between Bonnie, whose early material is clearly an influence and Zoss’ earthy slurred funkier reading. Again the band and Morse’s guitar especially smoulders and burns. 

Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee” gets a masterful reading, stripped of Muddy’s metronome steady guitar it becomes a swampy steamy soul joy. Alice does blues perfectly over shuffle drums and that period electric piano like it’s second nature and Morses’ guitar with its Jeff Beck bent notes is heartache personified. “Getaway Car” written by Howe is a blues staple, lines about travel and lots of breakup images, lovely brass stabs, Hammond  organ and a great use of space. Few do out Dylan, when it comes to Dylan, Hendrix’s “Watchtower” sits outside everything else, there are so many versions of “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”, but Howe’s clean, emotional Country version is just lovely. Like her Cooke cover, Alice is understated with her voice, but spot on and the old time harmonies on this grower of a song are just a dream. 2017’s You’ve Been Away So Long EP was a beautiful, perfectly formed bulb, a delight to behold, Vision’s is an opened flower, revealing so much beauty previously only hinted at. Who knows what Alice will do next, whatever it is this is a powerful second step. Choosing a preview track was a real struggle, there are so many different facets and strengths, in the end I plumbed for the track I kept replaying. But don’t go with my choice, buy the album and choose your own favourites.

Choice Track: “Bring it on Home to Me” (NSV 485)