Our Song of the Day is a premiere from Michael Howard, a singer-songwriter from Anchorage, Alaska, who, before pursuing music, was a community organizer and activist. Meet Me At The Front Lines is taken from his forthcoming album Gasoline Dream (released August 12, 2016) and demonstrates his ongoing commitment to activism through song. He shared this with us:
I began writing this song as a way of telling the story of two brothers. One brother being a metaphor for the social upheaval in America in the 60’s, the other brother being the nascent Occupy Wall Street movement around 2012. Songwriters in America in the 60’s gave voice to very pressing issues and I feel strongly that there are so many issues in the world today that songwriters should be giving voice to. In the song, the protagonist is a “lover” who sets a frame for telling the story and can ambiguously be interpreted as “the revolution” herself.
At first glance, the word association of “Alaska” and “punk rock” might seem like something out of a cunning psychological method, but for singer-songwriter Michael Howard, they represent elemental forces that have helped form his creative voice. “I grew up playing in punk bands around Anchorage, putting on shows at rec centers and such,” he says. In many ways, he fits in among a generation of ex-punk rockers and now happens to be a songwriter. As such, Howard is, in a way, an outsider. Born and raised amid the long winter nights and extended summer days of the Last Frontier, Howard knows what it is to be removed, living on the edge of civilization. Being formed as an adolescent by punk’s do-it-yourself ethic, he is an explorer and an inventor, creatively speaking. After many dark Alaskan winters touring the rest of the State and long Arctic summers as a community organizer and activist, Michael Howard’s unique perspective has come to fruition in his latest album, GASOLINE DREAM, a collection of poetic Americana born from life on the road.
Recorded at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone Studios, the album was produced and engineered by Jacob Winik (Magnetic Fields, John Vanderslice). In keeping with Howard’s DIY punk roots, many of the songs, such as “Hog Butcher, Hog Butcher,” and the title track, were recorded entirely live. Though a largely stripped-down recording, Howard brought in friend and part-time co-writer Kevin Worrell (upright bass, piano, pump organ) and Andrew Maguire (percussion) for other instrumentation.
The songs on Gasoline Dream share a certain unvarnished, prophetic story-song quality with those of early Bob Dylan. Where the songwriting on Howard’s previous album, The Martyr & The Magician, was more ethereal and spiritual, here it is more poetic and concrete. “These are a lot of stories inspired by being on the road,” says Howard. “There’s a touch of the personal along with the universal. It’s more of a coherent collection of songs addressing community and global issues, references to veterans of the Afghanistan war and the Arab Spring, for instance.”
Like many prophets and dream interpreters of history, Michael Howard originates and speaks from the edge of society. With Gasoline Dream he’s created a surreal listening experience like a vivid dream that might be hard to interpret but leaves you pondering it for time to come.
Gasoline Dream is released on August 12, 2016
More here: www.mhowardmusic.com