Catherine Howe,
Princelet Street
(independent, 2007)

The East End of London has been featured in just about every media possible, from the infamous Ripper murders of the 1880s to the acclaimed Brick Lane novel. Now it features on an album of beautiful music from an expatriate of the area that has since moved north, from urban to rural.

Catherine Howe opens with the jazz- and blues-influenced title track. She slows things down with a beautifully understated track called "You Never Know," on which she sounds very much like underrated singers like Elkie Brooks and Barbra Dickson. It is a very personal, autobiographical song wonderfully delivered with heart and soul.

The tracks on offer all come from Catherine's pen, and it is amazing to listen to the diversity of influences so well captured. Nowhere is this more obvious than on "All I Can Say," with a soaring instrumental opening that relaxes into piano and vocals, then builds again to a song that captures the imagination and helps the listener visualise the world as if it were a soundtrack to a film.

The songs range over three or four decades and as such they give us a view of the performer as she perfects her craft. Having said that, a track called "Come Back Soon," written back in the 1970s, is one of my favourites here.

Like all good writers she draws on personal experience. No mother or father whose child has flown the nest can ignore "Someone's Been There Before," written to commemorate her child's first day in secondary school.

We often forget that emigration is not an Irish, Italian or Jewish phenomenon. The English also experienced this "escape" from poverty and repressive society. Howe details this on "Brothers." She ties up the album of 13 tracks in an unaccompanied piece reflecting on her new home and the "Yorkshire Hills."

This is a marvelous collection of songs with diverse backgrounds, dates and deliveries, but all are worth a close listen.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Nicky Rossiter

9 June 2007

what's new