While not all songwriters have the gift to write instantly catchy songs, Dave Howard has no problem. He has written music for six CD releases since the early 1990s and has worked with a roster of top local roots artists, including Cathryn Beeks, Jeff Berkley, Lisa Sanders, A.J. Croce, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Jewel, Steve Poltz, and Jason Mraz. He has written songs recorded by other artists, like Berkley Hart, Croce, Gregory Page, and others. To sum up, Howard is one of those guys who is a writer’s writer; his pop and rock vary from tune to tune–sharp-edged pop to the best kind of garage-influenced rock. A song that recalls the Beatles can be followed by one that is as good as the best of the Replacements–then comes one that can’t be pigeonholed.
His new album, Fate Rumbled, is nine fascinating songs based on “a study of the loose associations and wandering mind of the tweeter-in-chief.” Howard recorded, produced, and played all of the instruments and it is a gripping tour de force. The disc sleeve has Soviet-themed poster pic with worker heroes, one holding a book inscribed “Gather All the Fables”; the Russians behind the curtain are put out front as he sings to a grinding rock riff, “Let the lawyers out the cage, your daughters out the kennels.” This is the first single and the video for it is a hodgepodge of videos of Trump, Putin, and now-familiar incidents, such as the Las Vegas mass shooting and an unarmed black man being shot on a police body cam, as the background vocals whisper, “gather all the fables.”
“Five and Dime” is built on a guitar/organ riff (it could be a Farfisa) about a homeless man with a sign asking for help. The drop-dead catchy song’s lyrics tell of his days as a rich man, who lost it all: “you can see the wind and you can hear the rain, but you can’t fear and you can’t hear pain.” It is topical, with great lyrics, a highlight on an album full of them. “Daddy’s Silver Spoon” is straight up grinding guitars, but it rocks the house and it is directed directly to the POTUS, with accusatory language asking a series of questions.
Howard turns the volume down for the title track, also a planned single–it is basically a piano-driven power ballad about alienation and Howard’s production infuses it with Beatles vibes. “I Found Out” is another style conquered, as a Howard takes a spacy bass and keys lick, then adds some overdriven guitar and echo-drenched vocals; it becomes a prog hybrid that grabs the listener.
He isn’t finished yet and “Quasar” is a very good lightweight breeze of jazz-pop from Steely Dan territory, as Howard steps outside of his protest focus late in the program. Next up, “That Little Something” is a perfectly crafted pop love tune, the kind that Apple Records used to fill Badfinger albums with, sometimes written by Paul McCartney.
Fate Rumbled is a must-have; Dave Howard’s new album is outstanding, front to back.