Hale & Hearty, the debut album by Heyward Howkins, is a carefully curated piece of work that exhibits a quiet string of songs reminiscent of Iron and Wine, Damien Jurado, and City and Colour. Howkins, who is best known for his work with The Trouble With Sweeney, uses his debut to explore his locale while maintaining an subtle pattern of melodies for listeners to follow.
The lyrics are quiet but not underwhelming. He layers his words with well-crafted arrangements that donʻt compete for listenersʻ attention. While some bands use their guitar riffs as overtones, highlighting the strength of their arrangements, Howkins instead prefers cohesion. His lyrics and sounds are complimentary and highlight the overarching theme of his album, which is that home isnʻt always something you have to run away from even if you feel like an outsider sometimes.
Howkins, who is a founding member of the critically-acclaimed choral group The Silver Ages, shows the true depth of his experience in Hale & Hearty by using the groupʻs vocal workouts to his advantage. The range at which Howkins stretches his voice is impressive, and it coincides well with the variety of arrangements that are found throughout the album. From “Thunderinʻ Stop”, which builds slowly and steadily, to “Flash Mob”, which calls on a slightly faster beat and exhibits the height of Howkinsʻs voice, it is clear that the album reflects a certain diversity that is found in a relatively small portion of music.
As the album comes to a close, it becomes clear that Howkins has found his niche. He has worked to perfect a sound that is structured but not restrictive, complimentary but not formal. Although he possesses a plethora of experience, he has allowed himself to push beyond what he is accustomed to and experiment with new arrangements and lyrics.
Hale & Hearty will be available on June 26 via iTunes, Amazon, and your local record store. You can preview the album by checking out Heyward Howkinsʻs first video for “Sugar Sand Stitched Lip” here.
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