Howl On review by Music OMH
The album is Kennedy's most explicitly American to date, tapping into that country's deep musical roots for inspiration. Beyond the rootsy sounds, the lyrics are informed by the gigantic realities that inform recent American history. To whit, Howl On draws on Kennedy's childhood memories of the moon landings, cowboy movies, Hank and Hendrix, and the King himself, Elvis Presley.
The soft shuffle and aching slide guitar of the opening America set the scene, with Kennedy retreating to his childhood self and imagining the American dream from in front of his TV set. It's a beautiful little song, self-referential but not self-indulgent.
The following Cold War Country Blues is even better. The structure is pure Hank Williams honky-tonk, all toe-tapping melody and acoustic guitar, but it is Kennedy's lyrics that nail the song home. A slightly surreal riff on Hank, Elvis, JFK and Jim Lovell (the former NASA astronaut), the song is liberally sprinkled with delicious non-sequiturs the best of which is "they sent Hank Williams to the moon".
Occasionally Kennedy's Celtic soul roots shine through, notably on Right Stuff and the beautiful title track. For the best part of the album, however, it is rootsy country/folk all the way, even on the autobiographical Irish Moon which tips a wink (and a drink) to the forgotten astronaut Michael Collins.
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