The Key Studio Sessions: Heyward Howkins

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The rare combination of a warm southern storyteller and a cool northern soul, Heyward Howkins is a longtime player in Philadelphia’s music scene who is coming into his own on the debut LP he’ll release later this month. The Hale and The Hearty is an album that rewards multiple listens – particularly the selections that Howkins recorded spaciously arranged versions of for his Key Studio Session with guitarist Severin Tucker and drummer Erik Schmidt. “Spanish Moss,” one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, is simultaneously a nod to the songwriter’s family roots in Georgia, as well as a vignette of working class life in Philadelphia. It’s so lyrically subtle, you almost have to be from the 215 to pick up on all the clever turns of phrase it contains (the line “My city’s way hungover / still sore from red October” is a good one), but the song is also melodic and sublime in a way that transcends its regional references. Likewise, “The Live Oak” makes a solid case for naming Howkins poet laureate of Oaklyn, N.J. The album is in stores and online on June 26, but you can get a copy early with the price of admission at this weekend’s album pre-release show at the Maas Building in Fishtown. Heyward Howkins performs with Oh! Pears, Le Fits and Juliet Hope Wayne at The Maas Building, 1320 N. 5th St., on Sat. June 9 at 8 p.m. Admission to the show is $10.

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