Written by Mike Yoder, posted by blog admin
Cut from the same soulful, guitar-driven cloth as Jason Mraz, Daughtry and James Blunt, Jackson Howard cooks up 11 enticing originals and 2 sturdy covers on his second record Just for the Mystery. He tackles one of the toughest Led Zeppelin tunes “The Battle for Evermore” off of Zeppelin 4 and manages to nail the guitar work, recreate but recapture the vibe in his own style and pull off a soaring vocal duet with Rachel Horter. Acoustic and electric guitars clashing together in a display of impressive cannon-fire that shows Howard isn’t no one trick pony and can excel at the classics. It’s not an easy song to do and he gets points right off the bat for nailing.
The remainder of the album’s 13 tracks is an exciting hodgepodge of different feelings and emotions. Jackson and his airtight band prove that they can execute a bouncy, piano-kissed, and rhythmically-fluent and electric guitar accentuated original rocker like the title track’s blazing introduction or deliver a harder-edged, more riff-built cover of EMF’s “Unbelievable” as a closer. The rest of the disc is chockfull of soulful compositions brought forth from Howard’s very own pen. Sliding acoustic licks, searing vocal melodies and fluid, driving bass lines render “A Place in this World” as equal parts ballad and smoldering, melodic rocker. “Run with me” is softer and has a glistening acoustic melody that opens things up in a contemplative twang that gives way to soaring, bombastic choruses and continues to build until reaching a rushing climax. “Hideaway” is the long-forgotten old school country duet that never makes its way to FM country radio. Howard’s plaintive, trembling voice is matched melodically by Mandy Cook over a warm, watery acoustic flow that is all about the mystery of the backwoods explored via sound.
“Surround You” and “Driftwood” follow in “Hideaway’s” footsteps, though leaving Jackson as the featured vocal soloist and placing his finger-picked acoustic guitar in the lead role.
“Driftwood” is grittier, gravellier and buried in the blues; taking one back to the days when you’d see people busking in downtown Pittsburgh. “Dizzy” picks up the pace with thumping backbeats, energetic piano bustling and some electric guitar licks enveloping Howard’s gutsy melodies. “If I Fall” is a lamenting keyboard/vocal number plunging the depths of love gone wrong while “You Are More” and “Tribute” complete the album in throes of acoustic-centered brilliance.
This is a very strong record throughout. A few of the tracks tend to sound the same but each one fits into the place of a “together” whole that doesn’t leap outside of its strengths. Just for the Mystery is essential listening for those that like their music charming, melodic and acoustically gorgeous.