(SXSW flavoured!) Bands to Watch #238: Ben Howard

By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 12:00 pm

Ben Howard has done what I like to call a Frank Turner. He’s worked the circuit for a good few years, then without any forewarning gone and become the coolest singer/songwriter since…well…Frank Turner.

It seems folk/indie is really hitting the mainstream, it started with those lovable faux hicks Mumford and Sons, carried on with new bands like Dry the River (Luke’s Bands to Watch on them here) and is coming to a head with arguably the most talented of the bunch, Mr. Howard himself. Now Ben Howard may only be releasing his debut album ‘Every Kingdom,’ but that isn’t to say he hasn’t paid his dues. Two years of solid touring and building up the kind of devoted fan base that has girls queuing overnight to be at the front for his gigs. (Read Braden’s review of Howard’s show at Shepherds Bush Empire here.)

The anthem of this new group is the horrendously catchy ‘Keep Your Head Up’, an anthem about overcoming adversity through strength of mind. “Keep your head up/Keep your heart strong”: now can anyone complain when a tune with that big a hook that seems to sail through the airwaves and with that kind of uplifting message?

Ben Howard’s appeal though isn’t just because he’s a dreamy songsmith from Devon. It comes from the fact that the music he makes is actually some extremely good, uplifting music. ‘The Wolves,’ ‘Old Pine’ and ‘These Waters’ are all are examples of Howard’s extraordinary talents as a writer of words. With his influences cited as singer/songwriting legends in the mould of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Howard looks set for a bright career and is doing himself a lot of favours by jumping headfirst straight into the wonderful world of the festival circuit. He is already booked for student favourite Beach Break Live and Scottish blowout T in the Park, meaning others are sure to follow. With positive reviews pouring in from all over the globe, it looks certain that he will follow in Mumford and Sons’ footsteps and do what any British act wishes for: an break in America.

2012 is going to be a massive year in all respects for the 23-year old. But with his horde of dedicated fans, even more Radio1 airplay than those troublesome, talentless Rizzle Kicks boys and a kit full of beautifully crafted songs, it looks like he won’t need to keep his head up, as the rest of us will be doing it for him.

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