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Wednesday 17 March 2010

Ladies 3: Catherine Howe

We interrupt our normal programming to deal with a request. Normally I don't let such things get in the way of my editorial integrity, but on this occasion I couldn't refuse. So this blast from the past goes out to Mrs J, in memory of Auntie Nonie. But the rest of you should feel free to sing along as well.

"Paper Roses" - The Kaye Sisters

Back to the plan for today, which is to highlight the work of Catherine Howe, an underrated and for many years overlooked British singer-singwriter from the 1970s. Fortunately for all of us she has been rediscovered in the last few years with the result that most of her albums are now relatively easily tracked down.

Catherine was born in Yorkshire in 1950 and started her entertainment career as an actress, including a stint in Patrick Troughton era Doctor Who. She released her first album, "What A Beautiful Place", in 1971 and it is a classic of its kind. It was re-released on Numero in 2006. Here's the opening track:

"Up North" - Catherine Howe (1971)

"What A Beautiful Place" did not attract a lot of attention at the time and her record company then went bust, so one way or another it was three years before she got another opportunity to record. She released two albums on RCA, "Harry" (1974) and "Silent Mother Nature" (1976), which were re-released on a single CD by BGO in 2007. "Harry" was the bigger hit but personally I much prefer "Silent Mother Nature". Here's the final track:

"You Make Me" - Catherine Howe (1976)

There was one more album, "Dragonfly Days", released on Ariola in 1978 and not currently available as far as I know. Then that was it until 2006 when, partly encouraged by the renewed interest in her, Catherine released a CD called "Princelet Street", named after the street in Spitalifields in London where her great-grandmother was raised. This was of great interest to me, not only because it was her comeback but because Princelet Street is about five minutes walk from where I live. The view on the album cover is very familiar to me.

"Princelet Street" was available via Catherine's website but appears to have sold out for the moment. However it is still available as a download on iTunes along with all the other albums apart from "Dragonfly Days".

That was where I had planned to end this post. But while checking on Amazon to see which albums were still available I was surprised and delighted to discover that just last week she released a new EP with Vo Fletcher. It is called "Going Home" and features this Fleet Foxes's cover:

"White Winter Hymnal" - Catherine Howe and Vo Fletcher (2010)

Frustratingly it turns out they did a free gig to promote the EP literally around the corner from me a couple of weeks ago and I knew nothing about it. However they have recorded a full album which is due out in April, so hopefully they will be doing some more gigs then.

In the meantime, here is a recent clip of them doing "Lucy Snowe", a song first recorded on "Silent Mother Nature". That is Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention on the fiddle.

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