It was a sweltering July day in Columbia,
South Carolina in 1993. Punks walked around in their own thick auras
of humidity. Tsunami were weary and wary. They loaded the equipment
on to the floor of the restaurant (no stage) where they would play
that night and hoped the pinball would get them through the next
3 hours. Little did they know that their lives were soon to be changed
forever, for that fated day they would be lucky enough to see the
brilliant Danielle Howle perform.
Sounds a bit like a bad novel, doesn't it, but isn't it wonderful
that life is sometimes that way?
Danielle Howle is the most original and compelling performer we
have ever seen "by accident". She commands equally undivided attention
whether she is knocking you down with the sheer force of her voice,
twisting you into knots with the subtle complexity of the inner
logic of her vocal decisions, or charming you with her effortless
wit and between-song chatter. When Danielle is in the room you can't
help but hang on her every word, and once you've seen her perform
on the floor of some restaurant, with her acoustic guitar and her
notebook, her glass of water and her guitar case propping up her
feet, you can't help but think there might truly just be such a
thing as "star quality" that doesn't have a thing to do with ad
budgets, makeup stylists or major label deals.
It's very difficult to describe her music as she doesn't fall easily
into one style. Some of the lazier journalists will say folk or
country. If that piques your interest - fine - there are definite
influences there, but don't assume that's everything. Self-taught,
her songs follow an internal logic that defies the traditional pop
structures and vogue songwriting styles. Given her chance, Danielle
will belong in the canon of intuitive musicians, like a Joni Mitchell
or a Liz Phair.
When asked directly, Danielle is uncomfortable with being labeled
an acoustic artist or "songwriter" but rather likes to think of
herself as someone who captures little bits of time. "I'm not trying
to shock people with bad language and weirdness," she says, "I'm
trying to tell whatever truth is there. I don't need electricity
to make a big noise." Nor does she need it to attract attention.
She so enraptured a packed, attentive throng of fans at the Milestone
(NC) when opening for loud grunge wunderkind headliners The Melvins
that you could hear a pin drop. Now that's power.
Since her debut Frog Song 7" on Simple
Machines, Danielle has covered a lot of ground. She's toured the
US with Tsunami, Ida, Retsin, Those Bastard Souls, Vic Chestnutt,
The Grifters and the Indigo Girls. She's jumped on stage and duetted
with Steve Earle. We've seen her turn honky-tonk heads in Nashville
when she skittered up to do a couple of songs at some open mic night.
She's kicked our asses at Quarters. Best of all, she's followed
up on her stellar debut with full-lengths for Simple Machines, Daemon
and now Kill Rock Stars. Expect more touring and more amazing songs
in the future.