Who would lump Dolly Parton, Nanci Griffith, Cyndi Lauper, Iris Dement, Paul Thorn and Natalie Maines together? The person charged with the task of describing Heidi Howe’s music. The little girl with the big red guitar has been compared to all of them.
The offspring of a music teacher and concert promoter, Howe’s fate seemed sealed from the start. She grew up singing old country music records with her dad, performing in musicals at school and singing in her mom’s church choir. (Classic, right?) She burst onto the Louisville, Kentucky music scene in 1998 with a live performance of Bob Dylan’s Buckets of Rain at a benefit show for the local NPR station. Virtually unknown up to this point, she immediately began receiving attention for having an awfully big voice wrapped in an awfully small package. Her first press clippings included quotes such as: her voice is “mighty big for someone so small,” (Jeffery Lee Puckett, The Courier Journal); “one of the local scene’s smallest wonders” (Paul Curry, The Courier-Journal); she has a “large voice, particularly with respect to her diminutive size” (Paul Moffett, Louisville Music News); and she has “a voice big enough to fill a stadium.” (Cheryl Chastine, Louisville Music News)
After releasing her debut album Nature of My Wrongs in 1999, she began to be recognized not only for her powerful voice, but also for her clever, relevant, earnest songwriting. Nature of My Wrongs received rave reviews, was chosen as one of the ten best albums of 1999 by The Courier Journal and solidified Howe as a worthy contender among other notable songwriters.
From the beginning, Howe has refused to be pigeon-holed and has insisted on defining success according to her own values. After releasing her sophomore album A Real Piece of Work in 2001 (on the Ear X-tacy label), Howe was quoted in Business First as saying, “I would rather play to 10 people who will listen than to 200 people who consider me a jukebox.”
Since that quote, Howe has toured nationally, placed first in a mainstream country battle of the bands, played huge concert halls and pitched songs in Nashville. She’s played radio shows, television shows, and has had her music featured in film. The list of people Howe has opened for reads like a who’s who of alt-country music: Todd Snider, Jason Ringenberg, Paul Thorn, Stacey Earle, The Be Good Tanyas, Jerry Douglas, Billy Joe Shaver, Kim Richey, Holly Williams, The Wood Brothers, Tim Krekel, Rosie Flores and Tommy Womack, to name a few.
Ever the explorer, Howe has delved into children's music, spiritual music and environmental activism and has drawn quite a bit of national praise for her efforts. She has garnered accolades from the usual Americana music supporters like No Depression Magazine and WXPN in Philadelphia while at the same time receiving kudos from Al Gore and winning an E-chievement award from the E-town Radio Show.
Be Good is Howe’s first album since 2007’s I Love Britney Spears. It will be Howe’s sixth solo release and the eighth album she has produced. (She produced the compilation album Heidi’s One Night Stand as a benefit for the Musician’s Emergency Relief Fund as well as the sonaBLAST! Records release Louisville Lullabies, which benefitted The Home of the Innocents.)
Today, Howe still professes to favor intimate shows over flashy, larger ones. To testify, she says that the songwriter showcase she hosted for more than five years in Louisville remains “one of her fondest memories.” Howe has always thrived on the easy conversation that seems to happen between performer and audience when she takes the stage. She is excited about taking her music on the road again in 2015.