A large part of the artist’s intrigue lies in her story itself, boasting a life story that includes a childhood in Chicago at the height of the civil rights movement, eventually seeing her have the great opportunity and privilege to march with none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That childhood saw her also being raised if a radical leftist religious organization before she’d eventually head out on her own, marrying and raising two children and living and travelling all over the world.Those experiences have greatly led to influencing Howard’s art. Not only a singer, she’s also a distinguished actress who’s received numerous accolades for her work in the theater. And combined with her keen musical talents, which have found her crafting five albums with sounds ranging from jazz and classic standards from the American Songbook to an album of original contemporary Christian work. Now, with Blues in the Green Room, Howard’s able to add yet another genre to her impressive stable of work.
“Blues ties together my acting, my spiritual side, and, of course, my music,” she says. “It brings together all these pieces as a performer because the songs have a narrative and I can really connect with that.”And connect she does.
The album was recorded live at The Green Room in the historic Garden Theater in Columbus, Ohio on April 14, 2012 and finds Howard surrounded by a more than capable stable of players. The efforts of Ed Moed (Keyboards), Chris Ciampa (Bass), David Bennett (Guitar), Randy Mather (Sax), and The Governor Gregg Peirson (Drums) set the perfect sonic table for Howard to fill with her vocal chops. The band is flawless and smooth, their familiarity with one another resonating through every bluesy note.But Howard is the star here and she ably holds her own throughout these thirteen great songs. Interpreting familiar classics like “Fever” and “Frim Fram Sauce,” Howard and company’s delivery is reminiscent in ways of Eva Cassidy and Chuck Brown’s The Other Side. Her vocal skills are in full bloom and she rocks the house, nailing her notes and putting swagger into every line, her personality finding its way not only through the playful in-between track vignettes “Eileen’s Reason #3 to Sing the Blues”, coupled with another, but also through her rendition of a song like “Built For Comfort,” which she mines for additional humor.
“It’s Easy to Remember” finds the artist mining her jazz roots, her vocals smooth and soulful and Ed Moed’s keyboard work carrying things home while “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” lets David Bennett shine a bit, perfect burst of guitar fills supporting Howard’s soaring vocals soundly. She infuses the “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” of “I Need a Little Sugar In My Bowl” with plenty of playfulness and fun while tackling heartbreak and rebirth with “Black Coffee” and “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues.” “Body and Soul” finds her returning to jazz, allowing the band another time to really showcase their skills, jamming out, and “Lost Mind” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” close out this display of musical prowess on a warm, sensuous note.Eileen Howard may be an unassuming blues and jazz chanteuse but from the moment she opens her mouth and the notes flow out, listeners are bound to be captivated by her artistry. And when surrounded by such a strong band as she is here on Blues In the Green Room, the results are wonderful. Fans of artists like Diana Krall and Eva Cassidy need look no further for some new inspiration; Eileen Howard is the real deal.