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Michael Howard Michael Howard
Album: Gasoline Dream
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

There is Alaska in the heart of this record, wide open spaces, a record conceived under big skies, fresh air filled lungs, bears at the front door and the scent of tree sap in your nose. It's a collection of mystical, spiritual tunes, other worldly, it's a set of songs that is transportative to a dreamy place, a better place where everything is just nicer - and a bit more 60's Dylan.

This is an album whose joy can be savoured pulling a rug over your knees on the back porch and looking at the stars or tossing another log on the fire, wind whipping at the door. It's soul medicine, like taking a vitamin shot to boost your immune system, Howard is able to conjure a feeling of well-being, of time spent beautifully wasting, noddling, a record to potter to, sounds to take a moment, think, and breath - a rare thing today.

It isn't an album that will be to everyone's taste, it is not immediate, and admittedly it takes several listens to permeate its exo-skeleton. Howard has made a returner, one of those records months after you last listened you seek out in the rack, a record you want to listen to, and will listen to in 20 years. Folk in the modern sense, it is stark, pared back, just his voice, guitar and smattering of keys.

It's wordy, often clunky, listen to him stuff "typewriter" in to 'Hog Butcher, Hog Butcher', but I love his attitude to "this is my message and its going in this tune at all cost", the conviction is palpable. He has things to say, he's going to say them, and fluff or frills will be remove in the name of economy, 'Andy's Song', and its message about the church is the proof to the point.

I have certainly said this to people before but Howard makes 70's Cat Stevens style records, something that is hugely welcome and to be immensely proud of. It is because of 'Gasoline Dreams' quirks, ticks and his quest to "be a better man, and I wish I was just not what I am" you are left with something wonderful, let's hope that next time he returns with Ethan Johns or Dave Cobb in tow and a full band - then he can truly blow our minds.

Rudie Humphrey