Howard Simon plays to a higher power on “Western Reserve”

Howard Simon plays to a higher power on Western Reserve, and it’s not an immediate consensus because you have-to listen carefully to the lyrics and that’s important to me. The songs have a spiritual thread; nothing too dominating. This is a folk/singer songwriter from San Francisco with some rocking new aspects to his otherwise straight forward folk style. The songs all have great vocal accompaniment and lush string arrangements with a stripped back production keeping it organic to his roots.

“However You Can” reminded me of many songs of the 70s at first, but the originality of the artist quickly takes over and his own interesting story line takes hypnotic shape and you’re lost in the entire track. It serves to set the album up for some adventurous tunes which go from brutally realistic to fantastically dreamy. The opening track falls under both, but the album takes a few turns worth turning any folk music lover around. The violin on the title track, “Western Reserve” speaks volumes without having to follow the subject matter of Simon’s lyrics.

The fourth track is “Lost and Found,” and it’s where the words really start to make sense in the narrative fashion they follow, and the undeniably good songwriting skills of Simon become most evident. This streak of brilliant songwriting and overall delivery continues on “Tend The Fire” which I find to be a very inspirational song in its own right, including the lovely guitar playing.


The album has many flavors and “Tuesday Girl” is one of the more pop structured tracks and it’s just lots of fun, especially the background singing which can be heard throughout the album. This track also comes recommended for its rocking edges, which the stand-out tracks tend to contain more of and this one also-  has a nice fade away. It goes very well in succession with the more epic approach on “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” which is a little bit more personal sounding to Howard Simon himself.

The level of songwriting integrity is maintained in every track, but “Photography” stands out as one of the best efforts on offer. It’s probably my favorite track on the album, but that mileage will vary once it sets in. I just happen to enjoy this track the most when it comes to everything about the Western Reserve album. But it doesn’t stop there, with another great tune “Good Book Blues” with its subtle but sassy grooves before “The Final Word” appropriately brings this excellent collection of songs to an end. The harmonica work of Simon alone will win you over, but so will the world class songwriting on the disc.

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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