Though he’s best known for The Rosebuds’ hook-laden, synth-leaning pop, Ivan Howard has long had a taste for soul music. He proved that point last year with a sleek and passionate reinterpretation of Sade’s Love Deluxe, and he’s doing it again with Howard Ivans, a new project that finds him exploring brisk Midwestern funk. Teaming with Matthew E. White and his Spacebomb Records, a label and production house based in Virginia that uses a house band to back up various singers, he recorded two songs—collected on Howard Ivans’ 7-inch debut and released last month.
With Howard and White taking turns leading the Spacebomb band at Kings on Saturday, we asked Ivan to spin a few songs and offer his thoughts, hoping for some insight into his very diverse tastes.
AL GREEN, “LET’S GET MARRIED”
[A highlight from 1973’s Livin’ for You, this breezy number is a classic example of Green’s wistful touch for funk and soul.]
I went through a really big Al Green phase before I first started writing my own music. It was before I would listen to songs to figure out how they did it, and just listened for the fun of it and to sing along. As best I could, that is! This was never one of my favorites, but he does really drive his point across with that repeated chorus.
MICHAEL JACKSON, “WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’”
[“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” kicks of the mega-successful Thriller with one of the most potent grooves Jackson produced during his collaborations with Quincy Jones.]
Jeez, really? One of the greatest songs of all time. "Too high to get over, too low to get under!" I mean look at all these lyrics. Not only is the music and melody about perfect, but the words are unstoppable.
Following packed crowds at the Haw River Ballroom and the Cat's Cradle, Mipso brought their road show to the intimate confines of the historic Raleigh Little Theatre. The usual trio brought along an interesting co-headliner in folklorist, Grammy winner and longtime Doc Watson side man David Holt. Holt was joined by Josh Goforth, another multi-instrumentalist and three-time "Fiddle of the Festival" at the prestigious Fiddler's Grove gathering in Union Hill, N.C. Holt consistently presents an interesting program of stories of his folklorist pursuits throughout the state.
The expanded Mipso jumped quickly into work from their latest offering, Dark Holler Pop. After a whirlwind year for the group, you might think they'd be slowing down to enjoy the holidays. Not so: Shortly after Thanksgiving, the group traveled to California for a string of shows with Mandolin Orange, including one at Google's headquarters. In RLT, their delicate and quite vulnerable folk tunes translated crisply. As the show finished, the crowd stood to applaud another homegrown talent.
Below are a few clips from the evening.
David Holt & Josh Goforth, "Georgia Buck"
David Holt & Josh Goforth, "All I Do Is Barter"
Mipso, "When I'm Gone"
Mipso & David Holt, "The Only One"
On Monday night, Marianne Taylor—the local roots-music promoter who relocated from the Berkeley Cafe to the Southland Ballroom this summer—sat outside, holding the door open and welcoming each patron despite the cold December evening. Taylor has hosted Justin Townes Earle at three different venues during his career, including his first solo tour at the long-lost Hideaway BBQ. Even years after that first solo tour, Earle returned to the Triangle for another solo performance.
Fresh off an opening stint for John Prine in Greensboro and Charlotte, Earle and his heartfelt songs and wirey stage banter were welcome in Raleigh. In a rather upbeat mood, he discussed his current life hardships, including "business troubles" in which he needed to "chop some heads off" before he records his next album. Despite all of his described chaos, he always seems to tune it all out and deliver one moving song after another.
Below, catch a few clips from the performance, including an unreleased song written about Billie Holiday, "White Dress, White Shoes and White Gardenias."Mama's Eyes