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Show Review

Ben Howard didn't expect the enthusiasm the met him upon his arrival in America. Perhaps the young British songwriter assumed audiences on this side of the Atlantic hadn't heard Every Kingdom; Howard's smoldering, recorded contribution to his home country's booming folk scene. When you align yourself with the musical community Mumford and Sons' Ben Lovett has been curating under the Communion imprint, American enthusiasts tend to notice though...the word gets out. All of which explains the packed past capacity gathering that welcomed Howard at our Launch Pad Party in Austin last month.

Howard's tidy, four song set was a tough one to get through the doors for, so we're thrilled to share this stunning capture of the performance with you now. The components of Howard's music are powered by his precise finger picking and somewhat vulnerable vocals, all accentuated by his fellow band mates' hearty percussive strokes, deep dwelling lines of bass, and chalky cuts of cello. It's dramatic stuff, starting humble and gradually gaining momentum as his set progresses. "Oates in the Water" is moody and mystic when paired next to the decidedly peppier "Only Love". "Old Pine" teeters on some stimulating brink, eventually tipping over the edge (also of note, Chris Bond's incredible display of talent, playing both drums and bass at the same time), transitioning into set closer "The Wolves", and ending like some runaway boulder tumbling down a mountain side. The aftermath is a cataclysmic storm of drums, snapping guitar strings, and a delirious crowd taking it all in. It's because of performances like these that Howard was greeted in this country with an enthusiasm that was unbeknownst to him. He's a special talent and we're thrilled to share his music with you today.

Artist Bio

Before launching his career as an acoustic singer/songwriter, Ben Howard grew up in South Devon, England, where his mother's collection of folk records helped instill a love for Joni Mitchell, Donovan, and Richie Havens. Howard also developed an interest in surfing, catching his first wave at the age of 11 and heading to the beach whenever he wasn't busy writing music in the folksy style of his influences. While pursuing a journalism degree years later, he briefly moved to Newquay, the surf capital of the U.K., where he received class credit for working at a surfing magazine. Howard dropped out of school six months shy of graduation, though, convinced by the surf community's enthusiastic response to his music -- which, despite its acoustic folk sound and beachy vibe, sounded more like John Martyn than Jack Johnson -- that he should ditch the newsroom and focus on songwriting.

The surf community proved to be a big stepping stone for Howard, who found himself playing to packed audiences long before his music spread beyond the U.K. beaches. He continued developing his style, too, adding a percussive element to his playing by learning to rap his knuckles across the guitar body between strums. A European tour with Xavier Rudd helped him build a wider audience in late 2008, as did the release of EPs like These Waters and Old Pine. By the time Howard finished recording his fulllength debut, Every Kingdom, in autumn 2011, he'd signed a major-label deal with Island Records (the same label that once released music by John Martyn) and graduated to headliner status, thanks to growing fan bases in England, Germany, France, and Holland.


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Ben Howard

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