Stephen Howard has, in recent years, cut his teeth as a team player, offering up his considerable talents playing bass with indie darlings Denali and Capitol Records "droppies" Ambulette, and baritone guitar as a member of the self-proclaimed slowest band in Chicago, Pinebender. Truth be told, though, Howard might not be as fitting to the sideman role as he has led himself and others to believe.
Howard expounds, "I love playing on other people's songs; in fact, my day job is playing as a bassist with the Chicago blues band Mississippi Heat. But I've been working on this record for so long now that it has really reached a point where I needed to look into having it released."
So with the completion of Quieting Syrup, Howard steps out of the shadows with a solo record that is as harrowing as it is beautiful. A total of 12 songs written over a period of 12 years, it focuses almost exclusively on his health battles and subsequent emotional fallout following the ebb-and-flow cycles of affection, addiction, and ailment. It also acts as a collection of love songs put to paper during Howard's continued recovery after a life-long struggle various illness. The record is filled to the brim with a quiet desperation, written from Howard's hospital bed but reflectively sung from his thrift store couch.
"Some of these songs were written at a point in my life when things were really grim, when I was 15 and drowning in drama or 25 and going though surgeries. My body was really failing me and I had so much time to recoup that music was an escape and a way to translate my anxieties. Now looking back, it becomes a marker for how far I've come," adds Howard.
That's not to say that Quieting Syrup is entirely doomed. Rather, Howard's hopeful voice is one of defiance and faith. The songs offer an innocence and buoyancy, filled with the heartbroken confidence of a man who has just let go, sweetly singing himself to sleep in order to face the day again tomorrow.