SOUNDTRACK FOR GROWING UP: Howard saddles up on I Tried to Tell You.
For as long as we’ve known him, Dave Howard and his band the High Rollers have been exploring the fertile turf linking the blues and R&B, with forays into rock and roll. But as we speak, Dave is about to embark on a journey that involves stopping along some very different musical byways, which will go a long way in changing the way this local hero will be perceived by his fans here and by a new national audience. One of those byways happens to be C&W. “Country music was always played in my house when I was growing up,” says Howard. “My father loved Merle Haggard, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, Carl Smith, you name it. That was as much my soundtrack for growing up as the Beatles and Elvis.”
For a long time, country music was just one aspect of Howard’s overall musical approach. Through his early band Old No. 7, and his career-making work with Young Neal and the High Rollers, he has touched on many styles . . . largely because of his potent versatility as a singer. But on his new album, I Tried to Tell You, he’s gone . . . well, country, more or less. “We played a lot of country and country rock in Old No 7,” he says. “Then the T-Birds and that whole scene came along and I became heavily influenced by that.”
But Howard wasn’t about to make any significant changes until he got a producer-type call from Mike Dinallo. Leader of the Radio Kings and many other bands, as well as and one of the region’s driving roots and country talents, Dinallo is a major presence in Scandinavia, where he works with European artists in the same ilk as a producer and songwriter. Over the years, Dinallo had grown familiar with Howard’s abilities. “I’ve seen Dave enough to know that all kinds of different music were bottled up inside him,” says Dinallo. “You can catch it coming out in small doses on the records he’s made. He obviously has a great passion for classic country, as do I, and the artists of that time and place gave us a good jumping off point for this record.”
Their collaboration on the new album took them to some exhilarating places as songwriters and fellow country enthusiasts. “I had been writing these songs for the past year or so and they really didn’t fit the High Rollers blues thing,” says Howard. “So Mike and I got together and he arranged them with me. He had an almost telepathic understanding of how I wanted the songs to sound.” The record was completed in two days and it sounds crisp, fresh, and inspired. “This is the kind of music I listen to the most,” Howard admits. “It’s that Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver stuff. This is the music I live for.”