Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Premiere: Alfred Howard Writes’ “Sounds Like a Whisper”

October 14, 2020

So, we had so much fun with the Jess Jocoy online residency that we’re doing another multi-week event! This time, we’ll be focusing on songwriter 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.

Don’t laugh: we’re premiering track number 40 today. 40! He’s 2/5ths of the way there already! He started publishing tracks on Monday and Thursday of each week in the second week of June 2020. He’ll keep going until mid-2021. We’ll be helping premiere four of these tracks, which will fall somewhere between 40 and 50 on the list. Today’s is “Sounds Like a Whisper.”

“Sounds Like a Whisper” floats somewhere between country, folk, and indie-pop. The weeping pedal steel from Ian Owen points toward country, but the rest of the song gently eases back on that comparison. The easygoing lead vocals from Dawn Mitschele are met with lovely backing vox from Shelbi Bennett and Matt Labarber; their collective work gives the song an indie-pop flair. The calm, occasionally twinkling electric guitars give a warm, folky sheen to the track; there are no acoustic guitars on the track, but the guitar tone is so engaging and round that it feels as if there are.

Labarber and Pete Williams hold down the bass and drums, respectively–both do yeoman’s work to ground the potentially-competing country/indie-pop vibes. Labarber’s bass runs split the difference between country walking bass and indie-pop enthusiasms, while Pete Williams gives a headbobbing, steady beat that doesn’t lean too heavily in either direction. The overall effect of the track is a casual but engaging mid-tempo track that would appeal to fans of Dawes and The Jayhawks. Fans of Lake Street Dive who wish they would chill out sometimes could also be interested in this one.

Howard himself is only credited with percussion and (the highly poetic) lyrics on this one, as he writes lyrics for Dawn Mitschele to sing in a collaboration called Cardinal Moon. This track itself will come out on their upcoming record Come Undone. Enjoy the track below!

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

The main artwork from Alfred Howard Writes. By Marian Howard.

From a lyrical standpoint, I just needed that first line – “I’ve seen the sun set out to get me / I’ve seen the moon rise up in arms.” I liked playing with the words like “sun set” and “set out,” and “moon rise” and “rise up.” Two very conflicting sentiments but they worked together. That beginning is about not having enough time. The days are quickly done, and it’s already late, as if time was your enemy. Dawn inhabits these words with a haunting, ghostly beauty. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco was a big influence for the production on this one. We layered lots of guitar solos distantly throughout the whole song, coupled with circuit bent radios. There’s lots of ear candy that all cuts out to give certain lines dynamics. It was really clear that this would close out the Cardinal Moon record. It’s just got that feel of a farewell.  And the song is also part of the Alfred Howard Writes project.

Pre-order “Sounds Like a Whisper” here. You can catch Alfred on his websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube. We’ll be back next week with another Alfred Howard tune!

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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