John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff
If John Howie Jr. and The Rosewood Bluff sound too good to be a new act, it’s because they’re not technically new. John Howie Jr. was previously the primary singer and songwriter for Two Dollar Pistols, which broke-up in 2008. This fine North Carolina country band recorded five full-length CDs, as well as a duet EP with Tift Merritt, and left quite a positive legacy. The Rosewood Bluff also includes drummer Matt Brown from Two Dollar Pistols, and Leavin’ Yesterday is hotter than a two dollar pistol, the same way John’s previous band was.
Howie Jr. has a voice similar to Richard Buckner’s. However, whereas Buckner can get a little pitchy when he sings, Howie Jr. is consistently on key. He has one of those voices that can only sing country music. There’s little danger of Howie Jr. selling out because if he even tried to sing rock & roll, it just wouldn’t sound right.
This is also a stellar collection of songs, which gives Howie Jr. plenty of lyrical goodness to vocalize. He invests an abundance of sadness into “Downhill,” and can’t help but sound sad on the otherwise upbeat “Watch Me Fall.” Many guitarists claim they first learned to play guitar in order to meet girls. With “Last Great Guitar Slinger,” Howie Jr. tells a story about losing out to a guitarist. He may be able to write and sing the songs. However, when “Johnny Six String” comes along, he’s all but forgotten. “You don’t want me/You want the last great guitar slinger,” he tells this girl, knowing full well he’s been beaten.
While sad songs are Howie Jr.’s obvious forte, he doesn’t have trouble singing faster paced songs. “Back to Basics” is one of those great, Bakersfield country boppers, which brings Buck Owens, by way of Dwight Yoakam, to mind. Howie Jr. is also a witty songwriter. The song “AAA” may make you think of insurance or roadside assistance. However, these three A’s are an acronym for “Amy’s Available Again,” and about a girl that’s back on the market, dating-wise, to put it crudely. The song is upbeat, and colored with sprite pedal steel guitar. Then in “That Makes 3 of Us,” Howie Jr. compares his relationship troubles to a bad teenage movie, and he’s just not a kid anymore. “Dean Man’s Suit,” with its bright production, describes one man’s despair precisely. Wearing a dead man’s suit, suits him fine. He puts a specifically country spin on this situation by pointing out how this guy will be wearing dead man’s boots and driving a dead man’s truck. This ain’t no city zombie, that’s for sure.
Two Dollar Pistols was a band mostly admired by fans of the alt.country subgenre, which is a real shame. John Howie Jr. is too good for such mistreatment, and Leavin’ Yesterday easily earns the singer/songwriter a second chance at fame. There are so many excellent songs on this disc, and Howie Jr. has the naturally straight ahead voice to give them vocal justice. With his post-Two Dollar Pistol band, John Howie Jr. is still shooting straight.
John Howie Jr. was once the lead singer of Two Dollar Pistols.
Goes good with: Richard Buckner, Son Volt, acoustic Beck
Ranking: 8 out of 10 John Howie Jr.’s music is still hotter than a two dollar pistol.
Buy “Leaving Yesterday” on Amazon
Buy “Leaving Yesterday” on CD Universe