Steve Howell has toned it down a bit since his days playing breakneck honky-tonk in the late 90s with Chip Robinson in the Backsliders. Its fun to rock out, Howell says. Nobodys afraid to get a little rowdy, but were not doing that. I dont know what to call it, just the out-of-control punk style guitar.
When he was first starting out, majoring in string bass at Appalachian State, he was playing in the symphony. When he moved to Raleigh and transferred to State, he started playing nothing but bluegrass. But soon moneyor, more correctly, the lack of itdrove him into stranger territory, and he found himself playing bass in a band covering Michael Jackson songs. It was a money gig, Howell laughs.
But not all of Howells stints were about money. Subsequently, the Backsliders were the fulfillment of Howells musical dreams: I loved playing bluegrass, and I loved playing electric stuff, but the most fun would be to be able to combine the two in something.
The Sliders got together in 91 and were gone by late 95 after signing to Mammoth. There was a lot going on in other peoples lives, personally, says Howell of the breakup. Miscommunication and people saying this is just not what I want to do.
Howell has long since figured out what he wants to play, keeping the music pure, and not sounding like the Rolling Stones take on country. The problem is in the labeling.
Take country music and just either like it or dont like it, he says heatedly. Dont make it some kind of political or sociological movement. Country music is anything from George Jones to J.J. Cale. You can boogie, you can whatever. It doesnt have to be played with an out-of-tune guitar to be rockin.
The Steve Howell Band plays The Pour House Sunday, July 16 with the Amy Loftus Band for the early show at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8-$10.