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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jackson Howard

Just for the Mystery

Review by Gary Hill

Jackson Howard seems to be billed as an alternative rocker. That fits to some degree. The thing is, his sound is very diverse. This album seems to be all over the musical map. Yet, other than the possible exception of the closer, it all feels like it fits together. There are some particularly special cuts here, along with some solid competition. Nothing here is weak, but some of it really shines. There are a couple unexpected cover songs along this mostly original ride.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 4 at
Track by Track Review
Just for the Mystery

There is a timeless, classic kind of vibe to this song It's a pop song that has some jazz in the mix. I suppose the easiest description would be like something from John Mayer, but comparisons to things like Billy Joel, Elton John and Steely Dan wouldn't be completely out of the question. This is just such a classy and catchy cut. The jamming later in the tune is so tasty.

A Place in This World
This lands more in the alternative rock vein, but it's on the balladic side of the equation. There are retro musical textures built into this piece, too. While this is a good song, it doesn't rise to the level of the opener.
Run With Me
A mellower cut, I love some of the intricate guitar work on this number. This is solid. It just doesn't do a lot for me beyond that guitar. It's essentially an alternative rock ballad with some powered up sections. The more soaring parts later are a good touch.
Hideaway (featuring Mandy Cook)
There is a bit of a down-home folk meets country element on the early portions of this. It works to more soaring alternative rock later. The second voice adds a lot to the mix. Overall, this is one of the more effective pieces here. It's definitely a highlight of the set.
The Battle of Evermore (featuring Rachel Horter)
Yes, this is the Led Zeppelin song. Those expecting it to sound like that one, though, are likely to be disappointed. This is so much better than just a faithful cover, though. Musically the treatment is different. Yet, it feels Zeppelinish at the same time. I love the female vocals on this thing. The whole piece just works so well. I've always said that if you are going to cover a song you need to make it your own. Howard certainly does that. You can recognize it for its nods to the source material, but this never attempts to recreate that. Of course, why should it? I mean if someone wants to hear that version, they can listen to it. I love the Zep version, but I think I love this one equally.
Surround You
I like the rather playful, folk element to the guitar at the start of this tune. The song has a nice timeless vibe. This grows into a cool alternative rock piece that even has some hints of prog rock in some of the layers over the top. It's another standout piece. It's quite dynamic, too.
Speaking of folk music, this one really is a mellow folk tune. This is solid and some definite variety, but it's a bit lackluster to me.
This Town
Another with a lot of folk in the mix, this has more of an insistent energy to it. It works much better than the previous number did. It definitely gets more "oomph" as it continues.
Here is another highlight of the set. It has a nice balance of blue eyed soul and alternative rock. This is another timeless piece. It's a killer melodic rocker that might be my favorite cut here. The vocal performance really sells it, but the whole song oozes cool. I dig the dropped back instrumental movement mid-track in particular. It gets into some seriously rocking territory later in the track and features some smoking hot bluesy guitar work in that part of the song.
If I Fall
A piano based ballad, this is a pretty song. It's also a nice piece of variety with a timeless sound.
You Are More

Piano and guitar both provide a lot of the musical interest here. The vocal performance is the real star, though. This is essentially an alternative rock ballad. It's another potent piece of music.


One of the mellowest tunes here, the intricate acoustic guitar creates the basic concept for the music. The vocals are quite gentle. Some female backing vocals lend another layer of magic to this. This is another of the stronger cuts of the disc.


More of a rocking alternative tune, this is the most modern sounding thing here. It's not my favorite cut, but it lends plenty of variety to the table. It is a cover of the EMF tune. It's another big change, but not as unexpected as the alterations to the Zeppelin cut. It works reasonably well. It just doesn't stand as tall as the rest of the set.

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