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Howie PayneHowie Payne
Album: Mountain
Label: Full Stack
Tracks: 10

"Mountain" is the second solo album by Liverpool singer/songwriter/guitarist Howie Payne, following his debut "Bright Light Ballads" in 2009.

Howie is, perhaps, best known as the frontman of The Stands, who between 2002 and 2005 had four top forty singles and a top thirty album ["All Years Leaving"]. The band broke up shortly after the release of their second album "Horse Fabulous".

"Mountain" was recorded "live" in the studio with all the musicians playing and singing at the same time, which gives the album a spontaneous feel.

The overall ambience of the album is mellow and laid back with some gorgeous melodies and harmonies.

The album opens with the plaintive acoustic ballad "Quick as the Moon" which sets the scene for the rest of the album, with atmospheric piano and layered harmonies.

This is followed by "All of These Things" a dreamy, ethereal waltz which reminds me of the classic electronic album "Jardin au Fou" by Roedelius.

By way of total contrast, "Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer" has a definite country-rock chug to it , with the band sounding like Crazy Horse at their best.

"The Brightest Star" is a delicate acoustic pop song, with its chorus of "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" echoing a certain other well-known Liverpool band.

"Holding On" ventures into singer-songwriter territory to great effect, with heartfelt vocals by Howie and some nifty acoustic guitar. Similarly, "After Tonight" is a lovely acoustic ballad featuring a solo Howie on guitar and harmonica.

Perhaps my favourite track is "Thoughts on Thoughts", a gorgeous harmony-laden folk-psych beauty that sounds as though it could [or should] have been recorded by a mid-1960's baroque pop band like The Association or The Left Banke. The harmonies on this piece of pop perfection are simply heavenly.

The remaining three tracks, "Hold Steady the Wire", "High Times" and "Evangeline[ Los Angeles]" maintain the incredibly high standards of the earlier tracks, and ,overall, this is a highly enjoyable and satisfying album which vividly demonstrates the strength and depth of Howie Payne's abilities as a singer, songwriter and musician.

Peter Cowley