The Chicago-based acoustic troubadour Justin Howl's second album features ten original songs in the classic blues and roots tradition.
Howl acknowledges a debt to Chicago blues but adds “I’m more drawn to the North Mississippi style because of its hypnotic quality."
Most of the songs were written during COVID-19 though none of the songs explicitly reference how lives have been affected by the pandemic. This is strange since as a traveling musician, his livelihood has surely been hit hard by the crisis.
Instead, the bluesman's "heartache, pain and strife comes primarily from personal struggles to maintain relationships. The world outside his own bubble is only referenced briefly in Josephina and is far from profound: "There's bad news on the TV and I don't know the reason why."
His love life, or lack of it, is the main focus of his attention. The opening track is a travelogue notching up the women he knows along the Interstate 55, I Must Confess is a declaration of undying love while the title track and This I Know are about absent lovers.
The only small variation comes with Things To Do in which he combines a daily routine of menial tasks with a wish list and includes self reminders to "buy turnips.....find a broom.....kiss a stranger in the rain."
Howl's perspective is very insular and by adding only rudimentary touches of humor or insight he doesn't really invite much in the way of empathy.
Justin Howl's website