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Left Lane: The Howlin' Brothers

Nashville trio makes Pittsburgh stop April 17

April 4, 2013
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

YET another case where you don't need no stinkin' drums to make music of distinction.

Witness the Howlin' Brothers, transplants from the great northeast to Nashville where they've delivered one of 2013's most dynamic discs to date.

Better yet, the trio is motoring to Pittsburgh for an April 17 play date at Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Cafe. This gig will definitely be worth seeking out. For additional proof, visit the band's website and check out a number of available video clips.

Article Photos

The Howlin' Brothers are: Ian Craft (banjo, mandolin, fiddle, vocals); Jared Green (guitar, harmonica, vocals); and Ben Plasse (upright bass, banjo, vocals).

Released March 5 on producer Brendan Benson's Readymade Records label, 'Howl' is a wire-to-wire winner of primarily band-written material. What caught the Lane's attention is the album's savvy diversity. Each one of the CD's dozen tracks is a unique presentation.

The boys successfully share elements of bluegrass, dixieland, country and swing to explore the great wide open. And in the process have created a record which should generate continual buzz as the year progresses.

"I think we're more willing to take risks with arrangements and style," says Plasse in a press release for the trio's exceptional new project. "We're not afraid to do anything we can pull off that we think is groovy."

No, the brothers are not related. They met while students at Ithaca College and when pressed, describe their music in the Americana vein.

Craft grew up near the Adirondack Mountains just south of Syracuse. Green was born and raised in Bayfield, Wisconsin. Plasse, meanwhile. was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia but grew up just outside Boston in Lexington, Mass.

The trio eventually wound up at Ithaca where Craft studied percussion performance. Green and Plasse majored in classical guitar and recording. Craft and Green met at a recording session.

"My steel band was going into the studio to record a demo," Craft explains. "Our bass player was Jared's roommate. Jared was the recording engineer. So I mat Jared and said, 'Hey, let's pick some tunes sometime.' I eventually moved into Jared's place and I met Ben through Jared. Turns out, we all liked the same kind of music."

Craft sat in with Plasse's jam band once or twice and Green joined Craft's rock band as an electric guitarist. By then, says Green, Craft had ignited his interest in old-time music.

On 'Howl,' the band proves time and again, less is more. Throw in a studio session's worth of adept writing and the end result is delightful.

"We realized that acoustic music was what we loved best," Craft stressed. "We just had so much fun doin' it."

Following a college gig, Plasse's guitar teacher, who hails from Argentina, declared: "Who ees these guys? The Howlin' Brothers?' And we said, 'Hell, yes, we're the Howlin' Brothers. We've kept it ever since."

The new record figures to put the trio on the map, although they previously released indie projects in 2007, 2009 and 2011. The band has made them available exclusively at shows and will likely bring along a few to the Pittsburgh show.

THE band has made several friends since relocating to Music City including Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes who co-wrote Howl's opening tune, "Big Time," the video of which is available on Howlin' Brothers website......

CRAFT informed the new disc is currently ranked No. 23 on the Americana music chart and the band is receiving airplay in a number of major markets....

TICKETS for the band's Pittsburgh 8 p.m. show on the 17th are just $10....

NEW MUSIC: Look for a new CD from Glen Dale's Brad Paisley next week. The record's title is "Wheelhouse" and contains 17 songs with an additional four on a deluxe version. You've already heard the single "Southern Comfort Zone" from Paisley's new disc....

Also due next week is a live record from Eric Church, appropriately titled, "Caught in the Act." Alt-country rockers the Deadstring Brothers offer "Cannery Row" on Chicago's Bloodshot label. We received an advance copy in the mail and can report several songs have an impressive R&B feel featuring multi-vocalists....

Later this month, Steve Earle's much-anticipated new record, "The Low Highway" is in stores. Earle's band features his wife, Allison Moorer. The record was co-produced by Earle and Ray Kennedy of Asleep at the Wheel fame....

Willie Nelson is back with "Let's Face the Music and Dance" on the Sony/Legacy label. The album title is borrowed from a classic '50's pop number. Nelson's new disc includes 14 songs.

One of the Lane's favorite and most underappreciated singer/songwriters, Kim Richey, releases "Thorn In My Heart" on new label Yep Roc. It is Richey's seventh studio CD and features several special guests including Trisha Yearwood, Jason Isbell, and Wilco's Pat Sansone....

At the end of April, Kenny Chesney and LeeAnn Rimes debut new records. In early May, look for new studio albums from Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert's Pistol Annies and the bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent.....

Gibson may be reached at



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