Tag Archives: Relaxing instrumental music

Music to unwind to…

With over 16,000 plays on Pandora radio in the last 30 days this track of mine is one of the listeners favourites in the USA, Australia and New Zealand

From my 2011 album “Island of Anywhere” the song is called “Pale Blue Dot” and can be purchased here, here and here 🙂

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Remember

https://soundcloud.com/mike-howe-1/remember-by-mike-howe

I’m working on a new album.  Here’s a sneak preview of one of the songs, hope you like it

Lovely photo by Mike Alexander

Apparently They Play This On Delta Airlines…Hopefully It Helps…

“A Long Way To Go” from the album “Round River” by Mike Howe

Sunset…In Music and Video This Time

Here’s a video made by rodhowe.com about my song “Sunset”…hope you like it!

From the album “Island of Anywhere” – see links on sidebar 🙂

I Get Reviews…

It’s obviously really gratifying when a music reviewer takes the time to critique your album over all the countless others that are released every month, and even more so when they say nice things 🙂

So a big thank you to Mike Debbage from mainlypiano.com for this great review of my new album Heading West…..

Heading West by Mike HoweHeading West by Mike Howe  2013/ Real Music  Total time: 52:46

Reviewed by Michael Debbage

With Howe’s impressive debut being released back in 2009, every single year he has come up with a new shining jewel to add to his recording treasure chest. However, 2012 represented the first year that Howe was unable to maintain this ridiculous recording pace.  Instead, he finally skipped a year with Heading West receiving a formal release in the year of 2013 as well as probably one of his finest recordings to date.

While Howe continues to lay his musical foundation in pastoral yet engaging pastures, Heading West represents a more exploratory recording and is best summed up by the liner notes which state that “through the heart and hands a British guitarist interprets his American travels”. Needless to say, Heading West lightly draws on the strains of folk, jazz and country allowing us as the listener to hear this very intelligent and introspective music become a tad more retrospective without losing his gorgeous original musical voice.

Though Heading West begins like any typical Howe album, by track 3 you will find yourself in somewhat new territory with Howe exploring the light jazzy winds of “Badlands” that is driven by what sounds like a stand up bass and light percussive work that intermingles seamlessly with Howe’s guitar and piano work. Speaking of percussion work, check out the stark exotic “Navajo Winds” that features Howe on bongos who decides to pick and pluck at his guitar strings versus strumming.  Meanwhile, the light orchestration and gentle spacious piano work on “The Last Buffalo” have similar exotic results but this time leaving a sense of openness. It brings to mind the rolling open plains that are now empty and bare with only ghosts of the once great roaming buffaloes. The same exotica can be found on the mystical “Desert Solitaire” that includes Howe’s delectable but restrained guitar work. On the completely different end of the musical spectrum, perhaps the more driven melodic sensibilities of “Wyoming” may also your suit your fancy.

Otherwise, Heading West is filled with Howe’s effortless ability to make outstanding exquisite music, reflecting his musical journal of his stateside journeys. It also represents one of his best recordings to date and undoubtedly one of 2013’s finer musical moments in its genre. So travel west into a sunset with Mike Howe as his music is your perfect engaging travel companion.

Spring on the Pembrokeshire Coast

Marloes Sands smaller

After 6 months of perpetual grey skies and torrential rain, spring has finally arrived on the Pembrokeshire Coast, and today our local beach looks like this.  It’s so nice to finally feel some warm sunshine, although admittedly there is still a chilly north-easterly wind coming down from the arctic.

Puffins on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire       Photo: Mike Alexander
Puffins on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire Photo: Mike Alexander

The sea birds have arrived back from the South Atlantic to breed on the offshore islands of Skomer, Skokholm, Grassholm and Ramsey.  These puffins nest in dis-used rabbit burrows on the islands, which are free of predators like rats and foxes, although the threat from the Great Black-backed Gull is still very real for the offspring of these little fellas.

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

The gannets have returned from their winter feeding grounds in the south to breed in huge numbers (32,000 nesting pairs) on Grassholm Island, and can be seen diving into the sea wherever they spot shoals of fish on which to feed.

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

In the next few weeks all of the spring flowers will emerge as the land awakens from its winter slumber.  The most familiar birds to be seen from the cliff tops are razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars and various species of gull, as well as shags, cormorants and the rarer choughs and peregrine falcons.

How a road trip, John Steinbeck and Charley, Hank Jones and another Charlie, Pat Metheny and a book called Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee inspired my new album Heading West, by Mike Howe

Quite a long time ago I fulfilled a long held dream and traveled all across the USA in an old Buick Skylark with a friend of mine.  We traveled 11,000 miles and visited more states, National Parks, cities, state parks and rest areas than you can shake a stick at (a favourite saying from the trip that, being from England, we’d never heard before and it made us giggle).

For me it was an unforgettable experience, as I traveled to places with names that had held a deep fascination for me since I was a young boy, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, California, Nebraska (the list goes on, sorry not mention them all, no offence intended to residents of Connecticut and elsewhere).

My fascination started watching western films as a kid.  I couldn’t believe the incredible wide open spaces and big skies, the beautiful forests and deserts and mountain ranges, with their amazing wildlife – bears for goodness sake!  We get excited if we see a squirrel (and most of them are from N. America and not native to the UK at all, but that’s another story).

And as I grew older I started reading more and more about this wondrous land.  I read the Lewis and Clark journals.  What an incredible story of an expedition sent out by President Thomas Jefferson to see what lay beyond the great Mississippi River, because back then few people knew, it was literally the wild west.  And what did they find?  They found an incredibly rich land roamed by enormous herds of buffalo, native people in numerous tribes, wolves, bears, forests and prairie, incredible.  Imagine climbing up a ridge and finding yourself looking down upon the geysers and steaming hot springs of Yellowstone, a primordial landscape?  In fact the whole landscape was on a par, if not better than, the great plains of Africa for all round natural splendour, and it was still largely intact only 150 years ago.

Then I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.  What a heart breaking but deeply fascinating account of the history of Native Americans in the American West in the late nineteenth century.  He describes the people’s displacement through forced relocations and years of warfare waged by the United States Federal Government.  Much later I read two books by Kent Nerburn, Neither Wolf Nor Dog and The Wolf at Twilight which explored the story of the American Indians in a much more intimate and real, and ultimately far more complex way.  Both books beautifully written and compelling, I’d recommend them to anyone.

So you see I’ve got quite an interest in the American landscape.  If you add in the influence of the great North American nature writers such as Rick Bass, Doug Peacock, Edward Abbey, David Rains Wallace and of course the greats, Aldo Leopold, Thoreau and John Muir (ok he was Scottish), then that interest has developed into a passion.

Of course I listened to a lot of music, I’ve been doing that since I was 3.  Of all the many musicians that were able to speak to me about the American lands through their music (and not their words), Pat Metheny stood out for me.  In particular his album with Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky was a sublime interpretation of an open, prairie like landscape of big skies, huge fields of wheat and corn, and small farms.  That album showed me that you can paint quite specific pictures with simple music, you don’t need an orchestra, as so many of the great film soundtracks have got.

Of course Pat Metheny is a genius and can make his guitar say pretty much anything he wants it to.  And Charlie Haden is a master of the understated, delivering warm, folky bass lines focusing on purity of tone and texture.  His Oklahoma roots can be heard in the playing of a double bass, now that is a mark of great musicianship.

Later when I heard the album that Charlie Haden made with Hank Jones the penny dropped.  They released an album called Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs which is a soft, gentle masterpiece and the title tells you all you need to know about the style of the music.  Here we had a simple blend of what I’d call ‘woody, blocky’ piano reminiscent of old churches and school rooms, and bass that sounded beautiful to me.

Finally I read John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and when I finished I thought how good it would be to write a similar account of my travels, before realising that I ain’t no author.  And then it hit me, why not write songs about it instead?

So I started to work with piano, double bass, guitar and drums, and became totally immersed in the whole project as it began to unfold.  The more I worked, the more the songs and melodies would come to me.  It was as if they had been stored up just waiting to be released, which in a sense I suppose they had.

What resulted is something that I am very proud of because it was such a challenge to compose, arrange and perform the music so that, at times, it sounded like a four piece folk/jazz band.  It wasn’t easy to play all of those instruments to the standard that I required so that, hopefully, the listener would be able to hear the emotion and the depth of each composition, and most importantly, feel the wide open space and atmosphere of the landscapes.

I guess it’s for others ultimately to decide how successful you have been as a writer and performer of the music, but all you can ever do is be honest with yourself and ask, did I do that with all my heart and to the best of my ability at that time?  My answer is yes, and that’s all that really matters.

Mike Howe

Website: https://mikehowe.com/
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