Autopsy IV note: A while back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts as we nail down and fix the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.
This post comes from our 9B Norwegian correspondent Rune Letrud. Lemme know what you guys think.
Let me introduce you to Howard Iceberg.
A man who is sadly overlooked on the Americana-scene, with the exception of his home town of Kansas City, where friends just a few weeks ago arranged a tribute show called “Raising the Titanic, An Evening with the Music of Howard Iceberg” – where over 50 musicians who came together to play their favorites from Howard Icebergs amazing repertoire. At the show he also released the seven cd-box Welcome Aboard – consisting of 105 songs spanning the last 8 years of his production.
The man known as “Kansas City’s Rock-Shaman” is actually named Howard Eisberg, and during the day he is a successful and busy lawyer. He turned 64 in May, and only started writing songs and performing around the age of 30. And in that time, he has written over 800 songs. Of which about 500 exist as simple sketches with Howard and his guitar, recorded in Pat Tomek’s studio. The remaining 300 have a little more meat on the bones, and has an ever-changing musician clientele.
I was first introduced to the concept that is Howard Iceberg when I met Pat Tomek, drummer of The Rainmakers, on their comeback tour of Norway. I was wearing a “No Depression” t-shirt, and one of the first things Pat said to me was that “have you heard of Howard Iceberg? The people in No Depression are big fans.”
Pat introduced me to a musician and songwriter who’s constantly writing songs and recording them in Tomek’s studio, in what Pat referred to as “draft form.” Howard calls the process “The never-ending recording project”. I first got a sampler with few songs, and I have to say that the feeling of hearing Howard Iceberg for the first time is almost indescribable.
What grabbed me was his lyrics. And first and foremost, in my ears I hear Howard Iceberg sounding like a Dylan around the time of “Blood On The Tracks”. He writes songs what I will not hesitate to place in the landscape around Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Warren Zevon and Neil Young. But mainly it’s because Howard writes about people, relationships between people at all stages of their lives, about why we do what we do – and often have questions that you always pondered, but failed to put into words. Howard basically writes 4 minute novels, where you take part in the lives of characters who are painted with so strong and bright colors that before the song ends, they are presented as real people who you in many cases would like to meet. All in a way that was Dylan’s biggest strength around the time of “Blood On The Tracks”.
My honest opinion is that if Howard Iceberg took 15 of his strongest songs into the studio with his current band and got T-Bone Burnett to produce it, the world would be left with one of the strongest albums in modern rock history. When I came into contact with Howard and subsequently told him this, he told me that he simply doesn’t have the time to polish the songsin the studio. He hopes someone else can take the sketches when he one dayhangs up his guitar, and see if they can be polished into something durable.
It is important not to underestimate his bandmates in this process, among all the past and present Titanics there are incredibly talented musicians. And his current, regular band, consisting of Scott Easterday, Gary Paredes, Dan Mesh and Pat Tomek are all great musicians, and they really suit the concept that is Howard Iceberg & The Titanics.
The seven CD’s in the big box Welcome Aboard are loosely divided into
different themes, and all have their thin red line that can be followed through each CD. KC music writer Danny Alexander has written fantastic liner notes, and guides us comfortably through the tracks on each CD, which elegantly puts Howard’s lyrics in context. Only the first cd is currently available online, with plans to release the rest in the coming weeks.
Alexander has named Volume 1 Lonesome Town, and loneliness and the quest
for true love are returning themes. To name a few of my favorites from Volume 1 is difficult, but I have to mention the wonderful “In This Lonesome Town”, and the duet with Abigail Henderson which is not only one of the best songs on this album, but one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard.
wrestled with the truth
but the truth would win every time”
…he sings in “The Wrestler”. And follows up with a story about loss of hope and faith – in which truth plays the lead role, and an organ and the female voice is the supporting cast that elevates this track to become one of the absolute highlights of this album.
In the Dylanesque “Kathleen”, who might as well be the sister of the girl from the North Country or picked from the “John Wesley Harding” album, we find one of the best lines of lyric on the cd. This is poetry:
Then they put it all in motion.”
The absolute highlight on this album is the lovely “Calling You Back,” where the main character hunts for a lost love – and all the while offers up lines like this;
’cause I always see everything I left behind
callin’ you back, back to the past”
So, my dear friends. Do yourself the largest favor of your life: Familiarize yourself with one of the music world’s best-kept secrets. Listen to Howard Iceberg and become absorbed in his fantastic universe today! Volume 1 is currently available on iTunes and Amazon, with the next volumes to be released in the next weeks. The physical box-set will also become available via other channels – feel free to contact me if you wish to learn more details as they become clear.