Singer/songwriter Russell Howard's irresistible and intimate blend of indie, folk, and pop with a touch of honeyed 1960s soul has charmed a substantial number of fans. As a hardworking indie artist with no label, Howard raised an impressive $11,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to support his debut EP, City Heart. The reception to the EP has been so positive that it’s being released in an expanded edition on Rock Ridge Music as City Heart + on July 30th. This new incarnation augments the EP with freshly recorded acoustic versions of the core tracks, and masterfully crafted bonus cuts that showcase Howard’s artistic growth.
Reviews for City Heart have praised Howard’s smart hooks and warmly confessional lyrics. Vintage Guitar Magazine says: “Howard seems to have no agenda other than writing good, tight, and trim tunes and transmitting the joy of performing them into the joy of listening.??? Online tastemaker Adam Newton enthuses “The beauty of this record rests in how simple, unassuming, and straightforward it is – and I mean that as a sincere compliment.” The Daily News in PA gushes: “Howard has what it takes to move on to bigger and better things.”
Howard has shared the stage with such diverse and respected artists as The Lumineers, Sister Hazel, Teddy Geiger, Griffin House, Greg Laswell, Brendan James, Matt Hires, Tyrone Wells, Ari Hest, Ernie Halter, Red Wanting Blue, and Michael Tolcher. His robust gigging calendar has not only earned him an impressive profile, but it also directly inspired the songs on City Heart.
“I wrote these songs at a time when I was playing colleges and traveling a lot. The feeling of being far from home was setting in, but writing was really grounding,” Howard explains. “It’s like that saying ‘You play the blues to keep yourself from feeling the blues.’ I pulled myself up by writing this record.”
City Heart is about the rewards and struggles self-discovery, and it shimmers with awe, melancholy, and steely optimism. The transcendent EP single “Home Sweet Home” is elegantly rustic with pastoral acoustic guitars, tenderly yearning vocals, and subtle touches of glowing atmospheric ambiance. “Under The Weight”’s graceful road-weary introspection evokes first-rate contemporary Laurel Canyon folk-pop. Also within City Heart is a theme of lost young love, bookended by the sublime, wide-eyed and carefree “Safe To Say” and the soaring and aching beauty of “You, Me & Someday.”