Andrew Howie is a musician, songwriter and music teacher based in Stirling, Scotland. He now works as a solo artist although between 2000-2013 he released five albums as Calamateur.
Howie usually likes working alone and has even made ambient records but for this album he has assembled a five-piece band and rocks out on many of the eleven original tracks without losing the intimacy integral to these songs of hope and experience .
The record opens in a rousing manner with A Follower, A Fighter, a song about a playground death with a refrain closely reminiscent of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday. Madeleine is another song about personal struggles with anthemic aspirations.
Howie doesn’t shy away from serious questions of struggle, survival and mortality.What If My Best Isn’t Good Enough is a heartfelt ballad empathising with the difficulties of building a new life after a prison sentence (“Better sit still than rise up and fall, or better to fail than not to try at all”). This song is drawn from Howie’s experience of work in prisons, schools, youth clubs and community groups, as is the touching Echoes commissioned for the launch of the Macmillan Tayside palliative and end-of-life care (PEOLC) network.
On a lighter note, there’s a sunny homage to California and a series of tunes set in Scotland: Inverlussa Bay is on the West Coast while Partick Station and Boompark Drive are places near Howie’s home town of Glasgow, a city which he pays affectionate tribute to in Open Arms.
Sycamore contains a reference to the branches of the album title and is a good example of the nostalgia and irony-free romanticism of Howie’s lyrics. These are delivered with warmth and integrity often with driving beats to help infuse ‘Pale White Branches’ with a genuine heart and soul.
Andrew Howie’s website