Artist: Steve Howell & The Mighty Men
Album: Friend Like Me
Label: Out Of The Past
Release Date: 11/20/2015
This is a 10-track album of covers, and it’s none the worse for that. Tracks include Jesse ‘Baby Face’ Thomas’s “Another Friend Like Me,” lifted (and credited) from the playing of Roy Book Binder, Bukka White, Charley Patton, Rev. Gary Davis and a tip of the hat to US tradition with “Little Sadie.” All are played with real feeling and skill, from a clearly experienced outfit fronted by Howell on acoustic guitar and vocals with Chris Michaels on electric guitar, Dave Hoffpauir on drums and John Weinheimer on bass.
The surprise card in the hand here is the closing track, a marvelous cover of the old ‘60s Manfred Mann hit, “Pretty Flamingo’, which manages to sound soulful, absolutely sixties and fresh all at the same time. An inspired choice in many ways, it typifies the eclecticism and enduring quality of most of the songs covered in the mix. Howell seems to be a guy with one eye on the future and both feet firmly grounded in the country blues. His voice, laid-back and fruity, pushes the whole project along with an evident sense of fun and pleasure.
Unlike many ‘cover’ albums, Friend Like Me sounds original, and is rewarding and instantly enjoyable. This is an album worth checking out for lovers of traditional acoustic-fuelled blues with a hint of originality, as comfortable and satisfying as a pair of your old, favorite jeans.
– Iain Patience