The music industry moves so quickly these days many deserving musicians slip through the cracks. The sea of noise frothing over in places like Brooklyn, Nashville, or Austin leaves little room for those solo singer/songwriters and working groups trying to make a name for themselves far removed from such big city lights. Writers at No Depression pride ourselves we’re a bit more patient, somewhat slower to sing praise, and more cautious to applaud. But every now and then, amongst the hubbub and clatter from those musicians we’ve been trumpeting for years, even we miss something important. At least initially.
Case in point: Columbus, Ohio’s Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons whose most recent release, ‘Homemade Vision,’ was somehow overlooked on its release late in January (Vital Music.) But music, like any treasure, becomes all the more precious after you have to dig for it. And with the Howlin’ Moons, we just might have found a vein of gold.
Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons have spent years playing 100+ shows annually to refine the psychedelica tinged garage rock sound that defined their first album, 2014’s ‘Hey Kid.’ The hard work has paid off for last month’s release of their newest venture, “Homemade Vision,” as the group has successfully focused on their two main strengths: Ms. Perley’s emphatic, impassioned vocals and guitarist Chris Connor’s crisp, cathartic guitar melodies and high flying leads.
Introductory track, “Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool,” is a proper example of duo’s powerful back and forth arrangements. All pretensions towards the ol’ drug induced guitar drip is dropped for a straightforward rock arrangement. Perley’s voice, which sustains both timbre and tonal color to illustrate anything within the pop realm well, flits in, out and around Connor’s crunching rhythmic devices. Well timed falls and lifts are designed to manipulate while the guitarist still finds time to insert a line of lead whose potency stands almost in contrast to Perley’s forlorn message.
The track is both a pacer and preview for an album that flirts equally with the power and majesty of early 80’s femme fatal groups and the more contained elements of modern genres. As opposed to ‘Hey Kid,’ the evolution of sound for the Howlin’ Moons has taken a decidedly more aggressive direction, evened out across the album by the feminine lilt of Perley’s voice and the nuanced, empathetic lyrical matter. This dynamic works best on late album stand out, “Leaving,” which compares in both sound and songwriting composition to early Turnpike Troubadours work. The song contains an easy rhythmic gait which belies a tension just below the song’s surface. “I’m leaving and don’t you forget it.” Seems a pretty straight forward lyric, however one senses by the delivery and song structure the statement might not be meant so much as a declarative for the protagonist’s lover as reassurance for herself. Again, Connor comes through with a lead that packs just enough punch to be felt without stealing the show despite what must be an easy ability to do so.
As a frontwoman, Perley is more than capable, and as a backing band the Howlin’ Moons are a cut above the average guitar/drum/bass format favored by so many in this increasing homogenous rock n’ roll landscape. The lyrics are mature without an ounce of the condescending pedantry we’ve become too familiar with from many female fronted groups. As a whole, ‘Homemade Vision’ shows how a bit of bite can be found in Americana, and that there’s a bit of soul left in the burnt out remains of rock n’ roll. Who’s afraid of the sophomore slump? Certainly not Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons.