Ben Howard " I Forgot Where We Were"

In 2011British singer/songwriter Ben Howard signed to Island Records, the same label that had signed U.K. folk legends John Martyn and Nick Drake. It was an appropriate choice considering that Howard is a current torch-bearer of the type of moody folk balladry perfected by his predecessors. I Forget Where We Were, his second album, features songs that cast long shadows with evocative imagery and pensive, complex melodies. Like his contemporaries, Damien Rice, Hozier, and David Gray, Howard sings with a muted intensity.

As a boy Ben Howard’s musician parents introduced him to the music of John Martyn, Joni Mitchell, and Simon & Garfunkel. You can hear these influences in his music, Martyn’s rhythmic guitar chords, Mitchell’s open tuning, and Simon’s penchant for poetry. The angst that seeps through the album is Howard’s contribution to the process. His lyrics reveal niggling questions of faith, self-confidence, and a yearning for love to fill the empty voids. His music imitates the emotional direction of the words. Sparse, elongated introductions, like low-lit halls, lead us into songs that gather energy through punctuated instrumentation, a cello, a plucked bass, an organ or piano line. Occasionally all hell breaks through as colliding instruments recreate the spiritual havoc of the song’s protagonist. Howard acoustic and electric guitar work is intricate. He’s joined by two musicians who worked with him on his debut release, Chris Bond, who also produces, and India Borne who adds additional vocals. They are joined by an additional percussionist and guitarist.  

Last year Howard won Brit Awards for breakthrough act and British solo male artist. I Forget Where We Were is his chance to make his mark on the U.S. market.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

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