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Velcro Mary

 

Soltero: Hell Train
[self-released]

There are a lot of singer-songwriters out there that craft songs about the pain of love and life, but not many can match the clever songwriting of Solteros Tim Howard.  I am continually fascinated with Howards work and persistence.  He has self-released a limited pressing of his newest album, because for some reason that is completely unknown to me, a label hasnt snatched him up yet.  Howard is the perfect example of someone that is truly gifted, has a passion for music and wants nothing more than to continue doing what he loves. 

Howards versatile vocals are the heart and soul of Soltero.  With his ability to sound like two different people, his voice easily slides in and out of a high whine and a deep low throughout the album, with Hands Up being a particular favorite.  His voice blends smoothly with both the simple, raw sound of an acoustic guitar and a full blown band.  Hell Train serves up a more diverse musical cocktail with everything from upbeat, sun-drenched harmonies and catchy hooks to gritty introspective ballads. 

The album opens with the simplicity of If I Had a Chance which sounds like it couldve come straight off The Tongues You Have Tied and provides a seamless bridge to the new material.  Tunes like Songs of the Season and Hands Up, with their layered harmonies and catchy music, stay with me long after the songs have ended.  But not many catchy songs have lyrics such as And the songs of the season get under your skin/Like a tapeworm.  But thats the beauty of these uniquely written songs, which you can only fully appreciate with a listen to the album in its entirety.

Ghost at the Foot of the Bed takes a glimpse into 60s style rock before trippin out on a psychedelic electric guitar meltdown at the end, while Step through the Door pulls out a bar stool and asks anyone who cares to join to sit and rest awhile.  Howards vocals hover above a soft organ and clean guitar riffs while cymbals crash quietly in the distance.

A highlight on the album is a look into a painful, dying love with Acadian Coast that displays its message with the addition of some minimalist piano to his intelligent lyrics.  So we searched for signs in an empty sky/ And wrestled day and night with the panic/ Then we signed our names and willed our sinking ship/ To the care of the great Atlantic.

Howard is not purposely trying to please anyone with his music, which gives him the freedom to explore territories unknown to many.   Hell Train proves that Soltero can take on any musical style and make it its own.  This album is one of my 2005 favorites, and now that you know about it, it should be one of yours too.

-Lisa Town
6/20/05

Soltero Official Website

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