‘Each Dirty Letter’ up on NoiseTrade

February 28, 2011

I just put my album from last year, ‘Each Dirty Letter’ up on the music site NoiseTrade.

You can download the album for free in exchange for your email address and postcode. You can also share the album on Facebook, Twitter etc and , if you like, put some money in the tip jar.

Here’s the wee widget:


Calamateur 2010

December 30, 2010

This past year has been another busy one on the music front :-)

In May I put out my third album, ‘Each Dirty Letter’:

Each Dirty Letter

It was the first collection of songs I’d put out that wasn’t self-produced (this amazing guy did it). I’m really proud of it as an album and a lot of other people seemed to like it too.

In August I released a single from the album called ‘Banoffee’:

It was backed by three covers, including a version of The Flaming Lips’ ‘Feeling Yourself Disintegrate’ which was played by BBC 6Music.

In the process of promoting the album I played a handful of gigs (including two with the uber-talented Iain Morrison) as well as a couple of radio sessions, including this one on MFR:

I was also interviewed by Shadders Online, Cross Rhythms and Peenko.

————

In other news, DUFI finished their short film about the Inverness Street Texts Project which I provided the soundtrack for:

I mixed a couple of tracks, Roddy MacIsaac and An Ann Air Mhire Tha Sibh, for Iain Morrison’s incredible album ‘Trust the Sea to Guide Me’ which came out in April:

Trust the Sea to Guide Me

And I also re-released my entire back catalogue via the wonderful Bandcamp:

And that’s it!

————

The longer I do this music lark, the more I realise it’s about connecting with other people – whether it be with musical collaborators and/or listeners. So, if I made music with you this year, or if you bought a CD, download or t-shirt, came to a gig, helped spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, blog or plain old-fashioned word of mouth, sent me an encouraging email or just gave my songs a listen – THANK YOU :-)

There will be more Calamateur to come in 2011. But first, there’s a house-move to be getting on with, a new home studio to be set up, and a heap of painting and decorating to be done. When the dust has settled after that, more music will be on the way.

Thanks for reading and for all your support.


‘Honestly’ live on MFR

September 27, 2010

A few weeks ago I played a couple of songs live on Marion Scott’s Sunday night show on MFR, my local radio station up here in Inverness.

Here’s a wee video of me playing my song ‘Honestly‘, backed by Mark Hilditch on keyboards.

Sorry it’s not great quality but hopefully you’ll get the idea :-)


Good Reviews vs. Bad Reviews

September 21, 2010

Calamateur

“Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters.”
- Dave Eggers

If you’re reading this, the chances are that you already know I released a new album this year called ‘Each Dirty Letter‘.

You can listen to it here:

The album received many good reviews, all of which I’m very thankful for. You can read some of them here.

It also got some pretty bad ones, and in the interests of transparency, honesty and commercial suicide, I think it only seems fair to let you hear both sides of the story.

So how about this one for starters:

“A breezy collection of no thrills pop…limp and pedestrian….far too often do the songs get bogged down in sentimental slush…”
- The Skinny

Or how about these kickers:

“If you’ve lost your heart to a girl in a woolly cardigan then this album is the perfect paracetamol to add to your iPod’s pain killer collection. Otherwise, it will probably leave you cold.”
Bluesbunny

“…too many of Calamateur’s songs are stillborn acoustic meanders. Too often the tunes limp along without focus…”
Halesowen News

“‘A Bad Friend’ sounds clunky and out of place in what is otherwise a cohesive album and ‘Sad and Lonely World’ is so slow and repetitive I defy anyone to not skip tracks through sheer boredom.”
- Red Hot Velvet

And my personal favourite:

” Each Dirty Letter is so wet that even Mumford & Sons take turns to dunk its head down the loos of Folk-Rock School. Lead single “Banoffee” is as sickly sweet as its name suggests, trotting out a whole slew of trite lines and clichéd couplets. Elsewhere there’s the James Blunt-alike “Honestly” and the none-more-grey “Testimony”….the album reaches its nadir on the frankly embarrassing “A Bad Friend”….criminally anodyne.”
- Drunken Werewolf

Ouch!

But wait a minute…

Red Hot Velvet think ‘A Bad Friend’ is “clunky and out of place”, while Drunken Werewolf thinks it’s “frankly embarrassing”?

But didn’t skiddle.com describe ‘A Bad Friend’ as “the strongest track” and say “It is the more personal moments like this that make Each Dirty Letter an engaging album”? And didn’t Americana UK say “the simple solo acoustic charm, and regrets of, ‘A Bad Friend’…gains strength in its sparseness”?

Hmm.

Red Hot Velvet also say “‘Sad and Lonely World’ is so slow and repetitive I defy anyone to not skip tracks through sheer boredom.” But Americana UK think it’s ‘masterfully restrained”, while my good friend Dave Saunders think’s it’s the best track on the album.

Huh.

Both Drunken Werewolf and Crack in the Road directly compared my songs to that of James Blunt’s. Well, no one wants to be compared to James Blunt. After all, he did this:

Ugh.

But then the Scottish Sunday Express said “(Calamateur) belongs in that small band of clever singer-songwriters who write sharp, beautiful songs (Ed Harcourt, David Ford, Tom Macrae to name a few) but are destined never to reach the heights of stardom that infinitely less talented people like James Blunt have achieved.”

OK… so, uh, now I’m confused. Who’s right here?

When it comes to reviews – good or bad – the temptation has always been for me to let the value of my music be defined by what another person thinks of it. At my worst, I’ve allowed the value of my very self be defined by one person’s singular point of view.

So if I read a great review I would be as high as a kite, because I felt worthwhile and important. Conversely, if I read a bad review I would feel useless and foolish.

There was a time in my life when bad reviews like the ones above would have crippled me creatively and, to an extent, emotionally. Thankfully that’s no longer the case.

After all, whether a review is positive, negative or indifferent, it will only ever be one person’s opinion. Taste in music is purely subjective. I don’t believe there is such a thing as good music or bad music anymore – there is just music that you either connect with or you don’t. Music you like or dislike.

The very idea of having refined musical tastes, or thinking your taste is better than another’s is, to me, laughable I’m afraid.

Of course, there is the odd exception to the no good/bad music rule. For instance:

After having read all of these bad reviews, I realised I hadn’t actually listened to my album for a long time. So I put it on and remembered just how much I love it; how proud I am of the songs themselves, how I think everyone who played on it did an amazing job, and how Iain Hutchison pulled it all together so brilliantly.

I’ll admit it’s polished, it’s sentimental and it’s not anywhere near as rough, experimental or lo-fi as my previous outings. But that’s how I wanted it to sound. Some people will be disappointed about that but, to paraphrase my friend Steve Lawson, if you want to hear a glitchy, lo-fi, indie guitar record that all the hipsters will like… please, by all means, go and make it yourself.

So, I’m glad of the good reviews and that people are enjoying the album. And I’ll read the bad reviews carefully to see if there’s any criticism worth taking on board – a lesson I learnt after reading this recently:

“You should listen to feedback but you don’t have to take everything you hear as being absolute truth….Not all feedback is given with sensitivity, but we can still learn from it…We need to learn to listen to what those people are saying and overlook how they’re saying it. Not all feedback is given with good intentions, but you can take what is helpful and leave the rest.”
- The Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland

So what will I do next? It might be another album just like ‘Each Dirty Letter’, with the same producer and the same band playing on it. Or it might be a self-produced solo acoustic album. Or it might be a collaborative EP with Iain Morrison. Or it might a double album of acapella scat singing (probably not).

I don’t honestly know yet, but I do hope that whatever I make next is better than what went before. And while I might listen to what other people have to say about my music, and sift through it all to see if there’s anything constructive or helpful in there, I won’t let another person’s opinion define what I make, who I am or what I do.

I’ll leave you with the wise words of a man who’s been doing this a lot longer than I have:

“I’m afraid to say that admirers can be a tremendous force for conservatism, for consolidation. Of course it’s really wonderful to be acclaimed for things you’ve done – in fact it’s the only serious reward, because it makes you think “it worked! I’m not isolated!” or something like that, and it makes you feel gratefully connected to your own culture. But on the other hand, there’s a tremendously strong pressure to repeat yourself, to do more of that thing we all liked so much. I can’t do that – I don’t have the enthusiasm to push through projects that seem familiar to me ( – this isn’t so much a question of artistic nobility or high ideals: I just get too bloody bored).”
- Brian Eno


Album Reviews So Far…

September 8, 2010

As you no doubt know by now, my new album ‘Each Dirty Letter‘ has it’s official release this week :-)

I’ve been really encouraged by the positive reviews the album’s had so far.

Here are a few snippets:

Scottish Sunday Express review
- Scottish Sunday Express

Sunday Mail review
– Sunday Mail

“… excellent songs…with rave reviews for his previous albums, this record should be no different as the quality which seems to have pleased the critics before is certainly present here.”
- Maverick Magazine

“…strangely uplifting in a resolute way….Howie’s observations on life are those of us all. The ones we brush under the carpet for want of survival….supremely crafted…this album is all the better for it’s honesty and ‘private’ reflection. 4/5
- Strummer Reviews

“(Has) an almost spiritual feel…a quality slice of acoustic pop…These are songs that you can relate to.”
- Fatea Magazine

“This is not a classic singer songwriter album; it’s much more than that…This album is weird and wonderful, it’s dark and consuming. 8/10
- Tasty Fanzine

“if you want to be delighted and surprised by perfectly paired down songs, if you want to be reminded of just how difficult it can be getting through the day without regret, it’s all here. The titles are a give-away – “Change The World, I Would”, “A Bad Friend”, “A Crumbling Empire”, “Retreat” – making Calamateur the perfect antidote to victorious living…with ‘Each Dirty Letter’ we are magnificently entertained and are made to feel the world isn’t so bad after all. Excellent. 10/10
- Cross Rhythms

“An intriguing release welding together folky acoustic guitars, subtle electronica, laid back crooned vocals and occasional bursts of aggressive electric guitar to great effect….I found myself craving more of the absorbing work of Calamateur (which can easily be located for free online) and personally I think that’s always the sign of a worthwhile release… serves as a stunning introduction to the intoxicating work of one Andrew Howie. 8/10
- Rhythm & Booze

“Take lo fi, folky, indie pop and wash over with some to-die-for melodies…a fluid musical journey that is best listened to in its entirety. Worth a punt? If you like laid back, cool, semi acoustic melodic guitar pop with an indie and folky bias then this album should be in your collection. Just a lovely forty minutes of music, love it, we do.”
- Shadders Online

“…like some of the best singer-songwriters Calamateur really knows how to express his emotions on paper and transform it into music…quite sumptous.”
- Entertainment Focus

“Each Dirty Letter is packed with anthems in waiting, and given a push (or some suitable TV soundtracking), Calamateur will be very very big indeed…Andrew Howie injects his music with a whole lot of heart which puts him head and shoulders above a lot of the competition in the field.”
- Americana UK

“Folk-pop singer-songwriter Andrew Howie, as he’s named on the birth certificate, hails from Scotland and, while not being part of the ever expanding Fence Collective circle obviously lowers his hip rating among trendy types, he certainly deserves to be afforded attention….’Each Dirty Letter’ makes a pleasing soundtrack to the reflective early hours.”
- Net Rhythms.co.uk

“Comprising quiet bits, noisy bits, and a smattering of electronica, it’s a more ‘proper-song’ led affair than previous outings where his use of texture was given foreground. Any fans of American Music Club, Elliott Smith or Sparklehorse should find much to love in his heartworn tunes.”
- Shout4Music

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So that’s the good reviews covered…..look out for the bad ones in another post soon!


New album ‘Each Dirty Letter’ out this week

September 7, 2010

My new album ‘Each Dirty Letter‘ is officially released this week!

Each Dirty Letter

“This week?! It came out months ago!” I hear you say.

Well yes, I admit it’s been for sale on my website for a while now, but there’s been a bit of a PR campaign going on behind the scenes over the last 3 months, and this was the week I chose as the ‘official’ release date.

The campaign managed to bring in loads of great reviews, as well as lots of radio airplay – I’ll blog more about that later on this week.

For now, this ‘official’ release date means that the album is now available from these friendly download retailers:

emusic iTunes tunetribe

And remember it’s also still available from my website, both on CD (with a gorgeous 16-page booklet designed by DUFI and with beautiful original artwork by Derek Steele) and as a download:

But wait, there’s more! :-)

You can now buy the album as a download for whatever you want to pay for it.

So, if you’re skint please feel free to download it for free! And if you’re not then it’s completely up to you what you want to pay for it.

And of course, whatever money you pay will help me record and release more music…which hopefully you’ll think is  a good thing!


‘Banoffee’ Press Release

August 18, 2010

My friend Richard Vernon wrote the press release for my brand new single ‘Banoffee‘.

It explains the song itself a bit more, as well as my choice of cover versions.

Here it is:

‘Banoffee’ is the new Calamateur single and is drawn from the forthcoming Autoclave Records album release ‘Each Dirty Letter’.

Built on a sparse shuffle of drums and a throb of bass, with a sprinkle of guitar “Banoffee” dips and swells in an unassuming, but terrifically potent way.

A beguiling love song to a real woman: a woman who feels intimidated by the unattainable beauty in magazines, but will still clean her plate down to the last crumb of pie. A woman who carries herself lightly yet takes the world seriously, and head-on; a heroine, in other words. The song takes the heroine’s (real life?) confusion over a plateful of the delicious Ban(ana and t)offee dessert and uses her gracious response to social embarrassment to encapsulate all that is good, beautiful and desirable about her.

“Banoffee” is so very intimate that it cannot help being universal, it is a love song for anyone who sees, or has ever seen, the world in the light cast by a loved one.

The three B-sides are no slouches either; a haunting and gorgeous cover of Johnny Cash’s 1970 paen to June, “Flesh and Blood”, followed by Calamateur’s take on “Strong Hand”, Emmylou Harris’s tribute to Johnny Cash that she sang at his funeral, and finally (perhaps best of all) is a devastating version of the Flaming Lips song “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate”.

There you have it — four great songs, three covers, and one original song destined to be covered many times, all of them dealing with great love and great loss. Love and death, and great song writing. Can’t beat it.

———————–

You can buy the single from my online shop (for whatever you want to pay for it) or from the following places:

iTunes

eMusic

Play.com

Tune Tribe

Download the official press release here.


New single ‘Banoffee’ out this week!

August 17, 2010

This week I’ve released a new download-only single.

It’s called ‘Banoffee‘ and is taken from my latest album ‘Each Dirty Letter‘.

It’s backed with three B-sides: ‘Flesh and Blood’ (originally by Johnny Cash), ‘Strong Hand’ (originally by Emmylou Harris) and ‘Feeling Yourself Disintegrate’ (originally by The Flaming Lips).

It’s had a good bit of airplay already, including Gideon Coe’s show on BBC 6Music.

You can get the single from my online shop for whatever you want to pay for it, or you can get it at these places:

iTunes

eMusic

Play.com

Tune Tribe

Hope you like the songs – please download, enjoy, share and spread the word!


Lewis Gordon

August 4, 2010

And last but not least in this short series of posts on people who helped me make my new album…

Lewis Gordon is someone who I’ve actually only met once or twice in real life. He’s a great bass player who’s recorded and performed with the likes of Sharleen Spiteri and Codeine Velvet Club.

Here he is, hiding behind CVC’s Lou Hickey’s elbow:

Iain Hutchison, who engineered and produced my album, had been at university with Lewis in Glasgow and we both agreed he would be the best man for playing bass on my songs.

He played both electric and double bass on 6 of the album’s 10 songs and he did an amazing job.

If you need a bass player, you can get in touch with him via his MySpace page (where you can also hear some of his own cool electronica).

Here he is in action with Codeine Velvet Club:


Derek Steele

August 3, 2010

Following on from my recent post about the people who helped me make my new album….

My good friend Derek Steele drew all the original artwork for the CD, he drew the images that come with the album download, and also all of the new images on my website (including the header at the top of this here blog).

I’ve known Derek for over 20 years and he’s been a real source of inspiration for me; introducing me to authors, musicians, comics and ways of thinking that have enriched my life abundantly.

I only found out within the last two years that he does his own drawings. He uploads them, as well as his thoughts, photos and recipes, to his own blog which you can read here:

http://mosteverybodylivestheirlives.blogspot.com

It goes without saying that I love his drawings. Here’s a couple of unedited versions of the ones he did for my album (click on them and you’ll be able to see them bigger):


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