Album Review: Howie Payne - Mountain
We haven't heard much from Howie Payne since 2009.
Back then, the former frontman of The Stands released his first solo LP and an accompanying live album. It looked like a possibly busy new direction for the musician. But then things went a little quiet.
And things are still fairly quiet, given his softly-softly approach to rock 'n' roll; his high pitched, hushed vocals over the top of acoustic and starry melodies.
At times, it sounds like a mix of some of Britain's most popular acts. One moment he sounds like he could have vocally held his own in the Bee Gees and another The Beatles, while the music underneath sounds like something from a later Oasis album or perhaps subsequent Gallagher brother projects Beady Eye or the High Flying Birds.
It's actually a lovely sound. Payne's voice is like a storyteller of music eras past. It's strong despite its quieter tones. Somebody may want to tap Florence Welch on the shoulder and wave this at her as an example of not having the shout to get a message across.
Sunday morning music would not do it justice. But certainly a hot summer's afternoon in a beer garden surrounded by friends and alcohol would.
Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer has a very Noel G chorus, the repeated strain of 'dream on' relevant to many in this age of uncertainty.
There is something of a smoke-filled working men's club feel to High Times. The dusky melodies suddenly explode into an enlightened chorus as uplifting percussion keeps time throughout.
There are some good journey tracks, too. The Brightest Star is a plush venture forth with friends into the dusk light. Feeling safe and like a barrier from all harm, its lush keys that appear in the interludes fill you with confidence in the face of adversity.
There is something calming about the whole record. Feeling shorter than its 10-track duration it could ease the pain of DIY or the frustration of gridlocked traffic to fill your mind with welcome happier thoughts.
A lovely return from Howie, it showcases a songwriter who has still got a touch of class despite the break.
Howie Payne appears at Birmingham's Actress & Bishop on Friday.