PennyBlackMusic Secrets and White Lies Review
A very positive review of Jack Howard’s “Secrets and White Lies” album.
Author: Malcolm Carter.
Date: October 2002.
Original URL: http://www.pennyblackmusic.com/cgi-local/ rbmagrev2.pl/SID=510624081/?articlesearch=865.
Jack Howard : Secrets And Lies
Despite only Jack Howard being billed as the artist on this Laughing Outlaw release, the album is far from being a solo record. Strong contributions are made by members of Howard’s band, known as the Long Lost Brothers, and most notably by Nicky Del Rey who adds guitar and backing vocals to all the tracks here.
Howard was vocalist and trumpet player with Australia’s Hunters and Collectors until they called it a day in 1998. He has since recorded or played with Midnight Oil (their Rob Hurst supplies the liner notes for this album) the Living End and the Models to name but a few. He released his first solo album titled ‘Lo Stresso Tempo’ in 2000. This new album features 3 of what many claim to be the best tracks from that previous album, ‘Mr. Twilight’, ‘Home’ and ‘Frankenstein’, to bring a total of 15 songs to this, Howard’s first Laughing Outlaw release.
Anyone who cites Miles Davis and Tom Waits as their biggest influences is surely worth a listen and Howard doesn’t disappoint. The first surprise is that the album is not over-heavy on the brass sounds that Howard is best known for. The second surprise for those hearing Howard for the first time is how strong and passionate his vocals are. ‘Fear Of Flying’ perhaps shows the powerful vocals off best and although Howard’s brass playing is also to the front here on the chorus and instrumental break the song is really driven along by Del Rey’s guitar playing with a riff which once heard is impossible to get out of your head.
The sound of brass is generally a sound that one loves or hates, especially when it is used as the main sound. Much like the jazz genre itself, in fact. If horns though are not your thing, one shouldn’t be put off lending an ear to these songs. One of the standout tracks, ‘Restlessness’, for example, has blues influenced vocals from Howard, a rhythm section who obviously know their way around a song and play with feeling, and also what can only be described as some stunning guitar work from Mr. Del Rey again. Add to this Howard’s distinctive brass and vocals and the word cool springs to mind. As it also does on the following track, ‘Sail Upon Her Smile’. Opening with acoustic guitar before Howard adds some dreamy trumpet, it is an excellent piece of late night listening music guaranteed to calm even the most stressed mind. When Del Rey starts playing some nice, fat guitar it is the icing on the cake. This brings me back to my earlier comments about this being a solo Jack Howard album. Howard has surrounded himself here with a group of outstanding musicians and the album would be a lot less appealing if it wasn’t for the contribution of these players. Apart from Del Rey, the keyboard playing by Ollie McGill is breathtaking and the bass playing by Barry Stockley on the title track is superb. Mention should also be made of the magnificent vocals by Callie Gray on this latter track.
So what we have here is a bunch of musicians (and I’ve only mentioned a few, but they all play from the heart) obviously experienced in their choice of instrument coming together to play the songs of an extremely talented songwriter and musician and sounding like they enjoy it.
With it’s blues and jazz leanings and Howard’s impressive lyrics (listen to ‘She’s Gone’ for confirmation, a tale of a 23 year old girl presumed dead but actually starting a new life for herself) this is essential late night listening. A real find.