Review: Spirit Songs: The Best of Paul Howard

Entertainment / Mon 24th Aug 2020 at 12:58pm

FORTY seconds into the third track on this Best of Paul Howard, he begins singing. The first words “Some men..” is a wonderful echoed cry that encapsulates all that is great about Paul.

This is an 1986 track that was re-recorded in 2020. It illustrates that Paul’s voice is richer than ever and that repeat playing of his work is richly rewarding.

In many ways there is never a more satisfying sight than his musical partner Jo Clack seated and playing a stringed instrument whilst Paul stands and sings from his very soul.

This reviewer feels that Winter’s Here Again sums up the timeless soulful beauty of Paul’s work.

The album starts with Irish Ivan’s Spirit Song. This was recorded in 1993 when Paul was a member of The Tender Trap. The celtic roots are well and truly laid in the second song, The Holy Hour, which is one of those tracks that you would love to hear live.

Both are very much songs of their time and although this reviewer hears echoes of other styles, these definitely have a style of their own. Rain is a good reference point as it is the song that resulted in The Tender Trap being signed.

The album leaps forward a decade to the highly literate music Howard and Clack produced in 2007, where they set the poems of William Blake to music. London highlights what a renaissance man Paul is.

Then we got to the do-wop of Wings. Another song from 1989 that they record again. It once again how Paul’s voice has matured as well as showcasing what a diverse talent he is.

The Hook (A Docker’s Tale) is another Howard & Clack. Paul wrote this in 1995 but it wasn’t released until years later as an extra track on their 2014 album Time Gentlemen. This is quite an epic but intimate at the same time. Like many second generation Irish there is a sense of history and heritage, of stories passed down from the ages.

It takes until Ground Down until we get a little bit punky or at the very least, a touch of Graham Parker. Play loud.

The beauty of this compilation is that it bounces across the decades, the genres and allows you to appreciate all the more Paul Howards’s versatility.

It merits repeated listening as there are so many layers. The musicianship in The Echoing Green is wonderful. We may have referenced Celtic roots but there is a strong sense of the English village green.

Which takes us to Cornered by Ray. Written by Jo Clack and Paul in 1997. This was released in their outstanding 2014 album Time Gentlemen. There is a lovely video filmed at the Small Copper.

There are a number of artists who have lived creative double lives. They produce their own work and also work as tribute artists. This was not for Paul. I Ain’t Johnny Cash is Paul’s take on an invitation.

We are back to rock and roll with Prima Donna. This was written with Rupert Orton and the novelist and poet Iain Sinclair who can be heard on the track. Recorded in 2002. This is one of the many tracks this reviewer would love to hear live.

This reviewer may be getting older but there is a comfort in returning to the more melancholic and reflective recent work of Howard and Clack.

We finish with the big music of The Tender Trap and All I Care About Is You. This is a solid gold beautiful song. It brings out the best in Paul. We do hope he listens to a song like that and says, you know, that was great because you know it is ok to indulge yourself a bit as you get older and hang the medal around your own neck.

We should all be very proud of Paul Howard. We should be proud that such a literate and soulful artist came out of Harlow. We should not take him for granted. Next time he is playing in the town, go and see him.

For details of how to purchase Spirit Songs, click below.


Here is The Paul Howard Band at Latton Park in 2019.

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