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John Howie Jr & the Rosewood Bluff

Leavin' Yesterday – 2011 (Sad Bird)

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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CDs by John Howie Jr & the Rosewood Bluff

John Howie Jr. has used his voice to sing punk rock, indie rock and assorted other rocks, but his deep baritone - full of the many flavors of hurt - was made for country music. Fortunately, the former Two Dollar Pistols frontman is back with a new project, the Rosewood Bluff, and album that'll have you suffering and smiling all over again.

The sound - produced by Brian Paulson and the band - is not too far removed from the Pistols, but it is extended in interesting directions here for a very contemporary yet distinctive approach that offers Peter Holsapple's piano and even a string quartet to complement Howie's vocals and Nathan Golub's prominent and terrific pedal steel playing.

Howie's songwriting shines throughout; songs such as Watch Me Fall and That Makes 3 of Us sound like something you've maybe heard before, but they're lived in, detailed with the daily dirt that darkens us all. Consistently enjoyable over 13 tracks, the CD's other hell-yeahs go to the neon-perkin' 1-2-3 punch of Last Great Guitar Slinger, I'm So Happy I Could Cry, and Back to Basics and the awesome AAA.