Keep Your Head Up
7 Bottles (Bonus Track)
Although Ben Howard often gets compared to Nick Drake or John Martyn, the English singer/songwriter was raised on his parents’ Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell records. Howard’s debut album, Every Kingdom, opens with the lilting, acoustic-based “Old Pine". Its intro, though, has much in common with Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky”, with descending chords and haunting “oohs” in the verses. Upon closer listen, Howard’s quivering, nasal-toned timbre recalls a young Devendra Banhart, sans surreal lyrics. “The Wolves” blends Banhart’s falsetto warble with the shaky vocal restraint of early Conor Oberst recordings. Toward the bridge, Howard digs deep into the grittier aspects of his natural tenor and we get a sense of his own style rising above his immediate influences. The more uptempo “Keep Your Head Up” works its timeless tunesmith magic best upon repeated listens. Over pedaling rhythms and subtly catchy melodies, Howard unleashes his scratchy voice, which segues into subtly layered gang vocals during the chorus.