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Thank You Mark
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Bursting on the scene over a decade ago with her punk/Southern Gothic alternative band, Lay Quiet Awhile, Danielle Howle is a powerful frontwoman whose vivid yet off-kilter musical stories weave a sweet sensibility and bare honesty into her work. Whether performing as a solo acoustic artist (Ani DiFranco has described her as "an effortlessly powerful singer and a melodically nimble being") or with her rock band, The Tantrums, Howle is a unique voice and riveting performer. She's also known for her spontaneous, hilarious between-song chatter -- observations that show an insight, inquiry and a sense of wonder that speaks of true romanticism. (She's been described as "an articulate Loretta Lynn fronting the Throwing Muses or The Pixies.")
Consistent critical acclaim has kept press and fans eagerly anticipating her new album, Thank You, Mark, her first in four years. Produced by Mark Bryan (Susan Cowsill, Mary Karlzen), Thank You, Mark captures Howle's essence and vivid personality and finds her at home whether working her own mojo with a cover of an Etta James number ("If I Can't Have You"), to songs inspired by the Columbia, SC native's sense of her region and its people.
Accompanied by top-notch musicians Sam Bush, Byron House, Tim Vaill, John Young (Spottiswoode and His Enemies), Les Hall (Howie Day), and Darius Rucker, Howle's songwriting shows an artist at the peak of her craft, skillfully blending Americana with R&B, classic jazz and a dash of swing, all stamped with her uniquely Southern sensibility.
"This is the record Danielle has always wanted to make," Bryan says. "We were in the studio for two and a half months and we had so much fun. Her palette is vast and we explored every color."
Howle effortlessly flows from one genre to the next on Thank You, Mark. The CD opens with the Americana-flavored "Roses from LeRoy's," a poetic tale of betrayal delivered through the local florist.
"I'll Be Blue" is a country-blues honky-tonk number reminiscent of the melodic charm of Patsy Cline.
"Fields of Cotton" recalls Southern history and Howle's heritage. A special song to Danielle, her lyrics are dramatic and deliberate painting a picture that remains an imprint on the mind. "There is an old spirit to this song and anyone who is from South Carolina will feel it," Bryan adds.
The cabaret style "Oh Swear" and the Stax-Volt inspired duet, "If I Can't Have You" with fellow South Carolinian Darius Rucker are sexy and sultry.
"Danielle brought `If I Can't Have You' into the studio one day and asked what I thought about her recording the track. I loved it. We decided to stick to the original arrangement by Etta (James) and Harvey (Fuqua) and Danielle and Darius just had fun with it," Bryan recalls. `Oh Swear' and `If I Can't Have You' is a fun corner of the record."
The delicate "This Kind of Light" fades easily into the blues-tinged "Walking Through the Black" to the melancholy "Love Is A Fall" with orchestration from Jay Clifford and Ward Williams.
"Who Knows" is a pure sweet pop song, fun and rollicking.
"Woman to Win" could be easily mistaken as an old country standard and features the beautiful fiddle playing of Sam Bush.
Thank You, Mark ends with "Jesus Won't Wait" a jazzy little cautionary number with Byron House on bass.
Eclectic as Thank You, Mark is, it is a solid testament to Danielle's refusal of being just another run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter. "Once this guy got all mad at me and said, `Why can't you just make a record where all the songs go together?' says Howle. I said, `They do Mister, but not everything's a Pink Floyd record.'"
Dark Side of the Moon or not, Thank You, Mark is destined to be the signature album of Danielle Howle's career.