A few years ago, when Heyward Howkins (@heywardhowkins) was laid off from his geology job, he turned to songwriting and recording for employment. Howkins, though, was no rookie to the world of music. As former lead guitarist for the early 2000s band The Trouble With Sweeney, he had gathered his share of insider industry knowledge. However, the transition to singer/songwriter was a challenging move into foreign territory. In his own words, creating his debut album “was like earning a master’s degree in second guessing.”
As evidenced by his June release, The Hale & Hearty, Howkins is certainly well-equipped to expand his musical persona. His style departs from the ubiquitous form of cookie cutter folk — tracing strange, angular melodies, detached rhythms, and odd instrumental pairings (such as the tenor trombone/ukulele duo in the album’s closing track). Initially, the sparse, almost avant-garde nature of his songs might be puzzling to the listener. Once properly acquainted with Howkins’ unique manner, however, one will find his Chris Bathgate-like voice and textural instrumentation bordering on addictive.
It turns out, in addition to being an excellent composer, Hayward Howkins is doubly gifted, possessing a keen talent with words. His simple, whimsical lyrics are akin in their cleverness to the likes of Bon Iver and Lisa Hannigan. His diction meanders through the mind of a wallflower; oftentimes severing the partition between urbanity and the natural world, occasionally giving voice to a bird or a morning, and consistently finding company in quiet solitude.
Hayward Howkins has emerged into contemporary folk music with a stunning debut album that dubs him a promising face in the field. He has created a fresh and organic sound that’s sure to bring splendor and ease to the hearts and heads of many.