DON HOWLAND : “THE LAND BEYOND

DON HOWLAND : “THE LAND BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS” CD……

It’s a sure pleasure to hear such a fine piece of work from DON HOWLAND, a perennial favorite around here. Until I started researching it, I thought this was his brand-new record, but it looks like it came out in 2002 and our office staff failed to alert me. Well – if ya missed it……this easily the best record of Don’s since 1998’s “When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again” from the BASSHOLES, 45s or otherwise, and it refreshingly answers a couple of questions I was having about the man during my many meditation sessions. First, I was thinking that Howland’s voice had maybe irreperably moved up a couple of octaves into this Chipmunk-ish sort of whine, and that was kind of the way he was going to sing from now on. Not true. I just think he does that to piss me off. Secondly, and similarly, a few of those Bassholes records were entering the realm of don’t-give-a-shit experimentalisms, tape cut-ups & other random pissings in the wind, and while “The Land Beyond The Mountains” ain’t exactly “Rocket To Russia”, it’s creatively bent into so many great parts it makes a terrificly wacked whole.

Howland plays the frustrated, horndog middle-age guy better than anyone, and says in his songs what you’re (and I’m) often thinking. “Desdemona”, a song about the married-man burden of shame & lust that is ever-present in the presence of good-looking women (the ones who aren’t your wife), has one of my new favorite couplets ever: “She’s got pigtails like Pippi Longstocking / Nose ring, to show she’s rocking” . The CD’s got the feel of a bored, pissed-off LEE HAZLEWOOD, one who’s not looking to be particularly funny & clever, and who would probably shy away and hide if enough folks (say, a few dozen) got rabidly interested in his music. Strange tunings, lonesome guitar, eerie voices and all that – but to say there’s zero connection to the drunken, amped-up, leg-humping blues of Don’s 80s/early 90s band THE GIBSON BROS would be untrue. It’s there; it’ll always be there. I was quite honestly surprised at how many times I’ve been wanting to play this record – back-to-back-to-back when I can – and I hope the man can & will continue in this distant & detuned vein as the 21st century unfolds.

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