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Alfred Howard Writes, Week 3: “Knew Clear Winter”

Last updated on October 24, 2020

It’s week three of our four-week premiere series of songs from Alfred Howard‘s truly ambitious project Alfred Howard Writes. Alfred Howard Writes is an herculean effort by Alfred Howard and a humongous cast of contributors to independently release 100 songs in 50 weeks. For more info on the project, see the first week’s premiere. The second premiere is also available.

This week we quiet things down a bit. In contrast to the full-band efforts of the last two songs in this four-premiere series, “Knew Clear Winter” is just Ellis Bryant on vocals and acoustic guitar and Alfred Howard handling lyrics. It’s a straight-up country song, with Bryant’s traditional country baritone (with a bit of swingin’ twang) casually working its way over sturdy, workman-like chords. The musical vibe is spot-on. The country approach gives a melancholy-but-hopeful tone to the dire-yet-hopeful lyrics: “Life is silence / met with violence/ Life is short” leads into “and it finally / makes sense / when I reach your door.” As with “Something to Believe,” the Howard finds that the trouble of this world is countered by the security of steady romantic love.

Alfred has given us some comments about the song and his lyrics, which I’m honored to reproduce here:

I remember writing the lyrics to this song while walking my girlfriend’s dog. This was the greatest challenge ever, because her dog is a wriggly puppy who twists and turns and mocks the concept of a straight line. If I look down at my phone to type a lyric, he will dart in front of me and throw me to the ground. I had this idea in mind, and, for me, once I get the first lyric, the whole song is there to harvest if I can make the time and not fall down. We were walking along the bay, and it was in the fall, and I had recently gotten back from an East Coast drive where I buried my father. I was back East too early for fall colors. And as I looked at the green palm trees in October, it came to me. And the rest was just a flood as I played jump rope with the dog’s leash. One of the other lines that always got me in this song was :

There’s a war

On every shore

And we all are on tour

And the right side is losing for now

That’s what it feels like. Life has been very cinematic of late. Not even a good movie, a big-budget film with terrible writing. And I’ve just been impatiently waiting for the tide to turn on the bad guys, but I guess the movie ain’t over yet. When I finished the lyrics, I sent it over to Ellis Bryant. Not reluctantly, but it was outside of our usual, more straight-ahead country efforts. But he ran with it and came up with this idea quickly, and it was perfect.

Pre-order “Knew Clear Winter” here. You can catch Alfred on his websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube. We’ll be back in two weeks with our fourth and final Alfred Howard premiere from this series!