NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Howlin’ Brothers had a very good year in 2013, following the release of HOWL, their first nationally and internationally released album.
HOWL, featuring Warren Haynes (on one track, “Big Time”), brought instant success to the band. In one year they graced the cover of Acoustic Guitar magazine’s January 2014 issue; recorded in the legendary Sun Studio; were featured in a national PBS show (The Sun Sessions, which will broadcast throughout 2014 in more than 100 markets); shared the stage with Grammy® winner Ricky Skaggs; placed on over 17 end-of-year “best of” lists, and reached #6 on the Americana Music radio chart (was also #30 on that year-end chart, the highest charting position by an act/artist new to the format last year). The trio toured their brand of “old-time string country blues with an indie-rock edge” throughout the U.S. and into Canada. The majority of the 13 original songs that comprise Trouble, released May 13, 2014, were influenced by the people they met and struggles they encountered on the road over the past year.
Trouble was produced and engineered by indie rocker Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs and solo career fame. It will be released via Benson’s independent label Readymade Records (in the U.S.), and distributed by Thirty Tigers/RED. In Canada, it was released via Dine Alone Records, and distributed by Universal and was released throughout Europe via CRS.
Benson describes Trouble as “effortless artistry . . . woebegone, lovelorn and wrought with pain, but not without installments of lightheartedness and beauty, downtrodden and then uplifted.” He adds, “The Howlin’ Brothers are somehow able to conjure images of a bygone era and make it believable. Trouble is all over the map and I don’t just mean figuratively. The listener gets a glimpse into the troubadour lifestyle, traveling (among other places) to Louisiana for a Cajun romp on the bayou and across the Arizona desert to California on a search for a misses. It’s a journey very much worth the while. Hoooowwwwllll!”
Benson continues: “The Howlin’ Brothers live the life they sing about in their songs. They are authentic and the real deal through and through. On top of that, they are the hardest working musicians I've come across. They play their instruments every waking moment and are truly possessed by music.”
Amidst all the touring and other activities the guys did to support HOWL, Brother Jared Green got married and became a dad, making the time away from home even harder for him. But every night on stage he brings the joy of playing and dancing to the music alive. His Taylor guitar is almost as worn as Willie Nelson’s famous guitar “Trigger,” with its extra sound hole created by too much pickin’. In addition to playing guitar, harmonica, dancing’ up a storm and singing, Brother Jared is an accomplished piano player (check out his playing on “Tennessee Blues” from The Sun Studio Session EP). He sings lead vocals on the songs he wrote: “Monroe,” “Pack Up Joe” and “Hard Times”.
According to Green, “The songs on Trouble are very different from one another. It’s a collection of beautiful music influenced from personal experience. We tend to write songs separately and collaborate after a melody or lyrics are fully thought. Trouble is a gumbo of stories that we hope the whole world will hear. It was a blast working with Brendan Benson again, getting as far out sonically as we could dream of, all in the midst of having a brand new baby and coming right off the road from a busy year. A time of my life I will never forget.”
He adds: "HOWL received great reviews from all over the world. I am still impressed by the overwhelmingly positive response it has received. We toured our asses off in 2013 gaining much insight into ourselves and the world we live in. It is beautiful to see people from all walks of life getting down to our music and it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that we are growing our fan base.
Trouble’s songs touch on lots of experiences from each side of the same coin in the band’s life. Though these guys have more depth and dimension than just two sides as people, players, and songwriters. Their individual strengths combine in the bands’ whole in ways that really do solidify their bond as musical brothers. They all met in college up in Ithaca, N.Y. and migrated to Nashville, Tenn. Afterwards, where they immersed themselves further in the Southern music they love and began to further hone their craft. Prior to HOWL (2013), they self released four albums - Tragic Mountain Songs (2007), Long Hard Year (2009), Baker St. Blues (2011), and a very limited edition compilation of live performances, Old Time All the Time (2012). These previous releases had been sold exclusively at shows, however they may become available on the band’s website sometime in 2014. An old-time pickin' party and the wash tub bass led to them meeting Brendan Benson, who later tapped them to perform on a Cory Chisel record he was producing, soon after Brendan & the guys teamed up to create HOWL.
They ended their HOWL Tour in style last year opening for and then participating in the Brendan Benson & Friends benefit concert (for The David Lynch Foundation) at The Ryman Auditorium in late December. They will reprise the same role on the 2014 version of this show in London at Shepherd’s Bush this coming October 11th. Brother Ben Plasse plays stand-up bass and sings lead vocals on the songs he wrote: “Boogie”, “Love”, "Troubled Waltz” and “Louisiana”. “HOWL was very well received, and I think we owe a lot of that to great bands like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Old Crow Medicine Show among others, who paved the way for a new generation of string bands to have success. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many young bands making music on fiddles and banjos.”
Brother Ian Craft plays banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and sings lead vocals on the songs he wrote: “Pour It Down,” “Night and Day,” “Sing a Sad Song,” “World Spinning Round,” “I Was Wrong” and “Yes I Am!”
Craft says: "Trouble is an awesome recipe for tasty sounds your ears will be happy to take the journey with us from Jays songs of love and Cajun food to Ben’s travels to get a mojo hand and find the girl who has yet to present herself, to my tunes of love gone wrong and finally a little moment in an old church on top of a smoky ole Tennessee mountain top.”
In the fall of 2013, The Howlin’ Brothers recorded and digitally released The Sun Studio Session EP in the U.S. and Canada. Recorded as part of the PBS series The Sun Studio Sessions, this six-song collection features four new originals (one of which, “Troubled Waltz,” was re-recorded for Trouble), a re-record of “Tennessee Blues” (from HOWL), and a cover of the Carl Perkins' classic “Dixie Fried.” A limited edition vinyl pressing will also be released via independent music stores on May 27th in the U.S. and Canada as well, and the EP will also be released in Europe on July 7 in CD, digital, and vinyl. Their segment (#8) of the PBS show has already begun airing and will be broadcast on TV in as many as 100 markets throughout this year in the U.S. The guys treated the opportunity to record in that historic studio with respect and really captured the spirit & tradition of those famous early rock ’n’ roll recordings that helped change the music world, by breathing new life into the process — adding subtle modern touches via their own influences and vision.
That EP was a bridge between HOWL and Trouble and is worth seeking out for all who dig those old Sun recordings and fans of The Howlin’ Brothers alike. The legendary Sun Studio in Memphis is still a going concern. A tourist destination during the day, the “Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll” often hosts sessions after hours with some of today’s best up and coming acts.
The Stone Fox Live EP is a NoiseTrade exclusive until this Fall.