John Howard’s 21st and latest single, a cover of Nick Drake’s From the Morning, will be available to download from next Friday, 1st December.
Howard creates a much bigger sound and an easier listen than the original version of one of his personal favourite songs. A reoccurring synth and piano backdrop frame his usual perfectly pitched vocals which open up Cave’s evocative lyrics, doing them if anything more justice than the Bad Seeds and Grinderman legend’s lower-tempo version did by opening up a more fittingly joyful view onto his words.
From the Morning’s understated bass and tambourine plus very sparse dashes of acoustic guitar and maracas create an interesting, multi-layered backing which contains something new to draw out even after multiple listens. Nonetheless, the intricate backing never drowns out Howard’s smooth vocals and piano or the synth background.
It has already garnered radio play on nearly 25 stations ahead of its release. While a Christmas number 1 is a dream, an entry into the iTunes top 100 isn’t an inconceivable proposition if the wind blows in Howard’s favour.
By now Howard is accomplished at the art of covers, and isn’t scared to tackle powerful songs or ones towards which he feels a great deal of personal affinity. He’s even covered his younger self in the past! The trick, it seems, is that Howard always adds something new and doesn’t seem to just cover for the sake of it, to overcome writer’s block or just to get something out there. If they’re not always great listens, they’re always interesting, and there’s always the odd gem.
And From the Morning will rank alongside his best, a reinvented Bewlay Brothers. Stylistically, this new release seems almost like a better executed, more exciting version of Howard’s take on Walk on the Wild Side. The Lancastrian once again successfully replaces acoustic guitar with keys like he did on the Night Mail’s version of Roddy Frame’s Small World.
From the Morning will be the lead track from Howard’s self-released five-track EP Songs From the Morning, due next Spring. It will provide renditions of five songs which had a special formative impact on John in his late teenage years of the late 60s and early 70s.
Howard commented: “I was going to just release the EP early next year, featuring From The Morning and four other covers of songs by my teenage songwriter heroes. But the more I listened to it, the more I thought From the Morning should get an outing in its own right.
“I don’t release many singles as, let’s face it, I’m hardly young record buyer chart material. But in the end, I thought why not have a punt? I’ve reached an age where I follow my instincts rather than the accepted way of doing things.”
This year has been busy for John following the success of his most recent album Across the Door Sill in 2016. This May, the first song from his next studio album, Remains, was released as a demo, like From the Morning recorded in Howard’s home studio in Spain. This carries on from the tradition of the previous album, where Preservation was released early to pique interest.
October saw the release of Suspended Second, The Granite Shore’s sophomore album on which Howard stepped in to provide piano riffs and backing vocals. Suspended Second received a slew of wholly justified critical praise from across the board. The band is another project of Occultation Recordings boss Nick Halliwell, who released Across the Door Sill and will produce Howard’s next LP, his second on Occultation.
From the Morning is available to preorder now from iTunes and will be available to download from all major retailers including Amazon, and to stream from Spotify and Apple Music among others on 1st December.