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Island of Anywhere

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Album Review

If fans of Mike Howe's sweetly melodic, lilting, and rhythmic acoustic guitar meditations knew only one element of his background — that of an ecologist in a Welsh national park, dedicated to preserving wildlife — they might be able to pigeonhole him as a simple and classic new age artist. His inclusion on two Real Music Sacred Spa compilations would fit him in this mold as well. But the Liverpool-born composer/musician draws from a well of influences that runs deeper — touching on the rock music he grew up with (Peter Gabriel, Queen, the Police) and a rich appreciation for jazz greats like Pat Metheny and Jan Garbarek. While his vibe for much of the disc consists of lush and graceful ballads designed for relaxation (the "Fields of Gold"-like opener "Beyond the Mountains," the caressing "Big Sky," and the hypnotic, folk-tinged "In That Moment"), Howe shows occasional flashes of those pop/rock instincts on jazzier, rolling tunes like "Summer's Here" (enhanced by synth horns and sweeping ambience) and "Sunset," whose acoustic strum backs a crisp electric guitar melody. As beautiful as the spa-ready ballads are, and as peaceful as he makes a visit to this magical island, these few hints at a richer stylistic palette inspire hope that Howe will continue to explore the depths of his background beyond healing and new age boundaries.

Island of Anywhere, Mike Howe
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