Bar Napkin Songs
Molly Howson was nominated in 2004 for 'Best Country Artist in Los Angeles' by the LA WEEKLY magazine and featured in the LA WEEKLY's cover story 'Hollywood Country' in Jan 2005. You can read a portion of that article below followed by 2 of several 'Picks of the Week' Molly recieved from the LA WEEKLY. Hollywood Country Don't look for the soul of country music in glitzy Nashville íŸÓ or even Bakersfield. It's right here on the grand ole streets of L.A. by Jonny Whiteside, LA WEEKLY January 7 - 13, 2005 . . . 'I didn't think I was any good until people started saying that I was,' says 26-year-old singer-songwriter Molly Howson. Standing out front of Hallenbeck's General Store, the North Hollywood coffeehouse where she's just delivered a powerful set, Howson drags hungrily on a cigarette. Onstage, she'd torn into the lyrics with almost masculine gusto, and her material was both idiosyncratic and extraordinary. Snarling about unpacking her belongings after a romance went south, only to find she had brought along her ex's 'f***in' fishin' hooks,' or careening through 'Jack Daniels Did,' a hungover, scarcely remorseful tale of completely losing control at last night's saloon (the title line is preceded, in admirably Loretta-esque fashion, by 'My Mama didn't raise me that way, but last night . . .'), Howson had considerable impact - even the low-rent NoHo intelligentsia, who had been groaning 'Oh, no - a country singer?' turned out to be enthusiastic recipients of her slightly cracked, thoroughly genuine songs. Howson is a powerful anomaly, a Hollywood-born high school dropout whose formative experiences came as a habitual truant roaming the streets. She's 'never read a book for pleasure,' can't abide a 9-to-5 - she works as a house painter - and picked up a guitar for the first time in the summer of 2003. Since then she has exhibited a formidable writing and vocal style, developed over a course of open-mike spots and the few bookings she's been able to get. Howson manages to largely bypass the maudlin shtick that so many inward-looking confessional voices succumb to, creating instead a strikingly effective, original country sound. 'I started writing songs,' Howson says, 'because I was looking for something in my life that I could rely on to carry me through.' Classic country themes - loss and drunkenness - prevail, and her songs further that pathology with a biting, occasionally profane intensity, masked by a sweet and wholesome demeanor. Her building contractor father, a man of dovetail-precise character, filled the house with country music, and her Fillmore AuditoriumíŸÏenlightened mother, a congenial free spirit, 'always tried to expose Molly to good singers or, I should say, singers with great voices - Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin.' So, musically, Howson was in good hands. She names Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline as favorites, and underwent an intense Tanya Tucker period, but none of these are apparent influences in Howson's performances. With her shadowy from-the-chest intonation and an angular manner of phrasing that lends unusual shapes to deliberately toyed-with syllables, she achieves a highly individual presentation. But even with an impressive self-produced 11-song CD, Howson had been eating dirt for months, trying to break in on hothouses like the once-a-month 'Sweethearts of the Rodeo All Stars' at Molly Malone's and 'It Came from Nashville' nights, but was invariably rebuffed. 'It's all a big clique,' she says, 'and if you're not already in on it, you can pretty much forget about it.' So Howson kept going to the pure country sources, and, after a few tries in Chatsworth's Cowboy Palace Wednesday talent contest, was impressive enough to score her own night there. 'I was so nervous, I almost puke every time I think about it,' she says of her first Palace booking, a demanding all-Molly, 8 p.m.-'til-closing- multiple-cover-song-sets gig. She had no compunction whatsoever about having to learn Shania Twain songs, yet dishearteningly remarks that she wanted to make her second CD 'a little more rocking, less twangy.' As work on that CD has progressed, though, she says the playbacks are country. 'It's all country. I guess that's just what I do.' Back on the sidewalk outside Hallenbeck's, she chats with friends, signs a CD for an Australian fan, tosses away a cigarette butt and finds herself approached by a coffeehouse employee with some money in hand. 'Here. You made nine dollars.' COUNTRY PICK OF THE WEEK MOLLY HOWSON Jonny Whiteside, LA WEEKLY January 7 - 13, 2005 'Scarcely known at all just a year ago, Molly Howson has emerged from a thankless circuit of open mikes and talent nights to steady ascension as one of the most intriguing and original country talents to hit Los Angeles in quite a long spell. Trading in boozy philosophizing, scab-picking self-examinations and kick-in-the-pants defiance, Howson's songwriting alternately erupts and smolders, while her intensely idiosyncratic vocal style, fueled with hints of 'Blood Red & Going Down'-era Tanya Tucker and jabs of Janis Joplin blue notes, makes every performance a riveting display that mixes the severely personal with a fascinating use of traditional country bedrock. Songs like 'Bad Cat,' 'Pride' and 'On the Floor Again' make it clear that Howson is not just here to stay - she may well be our country savior. . .' COUNTRY PICK OF THE WEEK MOLLY HOWSON Jonny Whiteside, LA WEEKLY April 2-8, 2004 'If you're out making the rounds late Tuesday, stop in at the Lava Lounge and check the midnight set from Molly Howson. The country singer-songwriter chews through her sparse lyrics with a deftly presented mixture of throaty heat, icy detachment and sudden jolts of intensely blue notes that combine for a singular brand of stylized vocals. With an almost masculine aggression surging through moments of the most tender feminine confession, Howson sounds like nothing but herself, and that is about the highest compliment one can give a country singer. Howson's apparently innate sense of dynamics, impressively economic approach to songwriting and fearless, boozy abandon seems too good to be true - but Pride, her 11-track CD co-produced with guitarist Bob Gothar, proves that Howson is no fleeting dream. Also at Hallenbeck's General Store & Café, Fri.'