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When Alice Howe wants to unlock a memory or understand an emotion, she steps outside. “There’s something about the stillness,” she says. “When I’m sitting with my guitar and looking out at a forest or the ocean, I have the space to reflect on people and places. My muse strikes.”
Vistas and the faces and emotions they summon unfurl with compelling grace on Visions, Howe’s anticipated debut album. A modern love letter to 60s and 70s folk and timeless blues, Visions pays homage without succumbing to imitation and offers an intimate snapshot of a young artist discovering her own power. Early praise for Visions has streamed in from gatekeepers such as American Blues Scene and smitten local press alike. “Sometimes we’re lucky enough to catch an up-and-coming artist as they fly into our radar,” critic JD Nash writes. “This is one of those times.”
Howe’s path to “up-and-coming” artist seems both fated and winding. She grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, in a home filled with music and art. Long outdoor walks were encouraged, and Howe would often disappear to wander through her grandmother’s garden next door or to journal and turn experiences into songs. “I can’t remember not singing,” she says with a laugh. Her mother always had a record to put on––Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, and other blues giants were favorites. Howe sang with her brother and her dad, Sandy––a gifted painter turned successful architect––and sang alone to herself, improvising and composing constantly.
Howe left home to attend Smith College, graduated and moved to Seattle before finding her way back to Massachusetts. While music was always her companion, it didn’t become her profession until she decided to attend the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference in 2016. There, she met Freebo, Bonnie Raitt’s beloved bassist for a decade and veteran of performances and collaborations with Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Ringo Starr, Loudon Wainwright III, Neil Young, Dr. John, and more. Howe knew she’d found an ideal collaborator. “I feel like it all happened because I was open to it and ready for it to happen,” she says, then adds with a laugh, “I was ready, so the universe said yes to me.”
Freebo invited Howe to record in Southern California, and Bakersfield’s sun-bleached grit became a creative counterweight to Howe’s lush New England naturalism. American roots music became Howe’s playground: blues, bluegrass, folk, and pop––with Celtic nods––take turns defining the sounds on Visions, anchored by her rich soprano. An ace band backed Howe as she’d never been backed before, and the resulting collection is polished but energized by a young artist’s hunger to prove herself.
Album opener “Twilight” is an intimate introduction to Howe’s use of pastoral vignettes to invite confessional introspection. Her vocal flutters conjure up memories of Celtic storytelling over a bed of acoustic guitar, keys, and more.
Freebo: From world-renowned bassist (Bonnie Raitt 10 years, CSN, John Mayall, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, Dr. John, Loudon Wainwright) to award-winning singer/songwriter, Freebo’s music touches your heart with songs of life, love, dogs, and the human condition. He is well regarded for his high level of musicality coupled with his thoughtful and powerful use of words in song lyrics as well as in prose and narrative. He has also appeared on the classic TV shows Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, The Tonight Show, and in concert with the legendary Spinal Tap.