Eileen Howard is an artist with over twenty years of music experience under her belt. Starting out as a garage rock artist, she soon ended up traveling the world singing contemporary songs for various audiences. Since 2002, she's been a recording artist when she released her first album, All Kinds of Weather. Nine years later, she's prepared her third full-length album called Make Over. Since her garage rock days, Howard's sound has changed very drastically, as her music can now be classified as jazz and lounge music. Her sound has gained her recognition in jazz clubs all over the world, and it's apparent why when you listen to Make Over. It would fit right in. Songs such as "Do What Jesus Said" and album finale "Rise Up and Shine" are the kind of upbeat stuff you always see in jazz clubs in the movies (almost to the point of being a stereotype). They feature light percussion, ample keyboards and a groovy bass with Howard's soft vocals crooning out loud. She also has some slower tracks like "Fellow Travelers" that bring the pace down to make for some easier easy listening. That being said, the musicianship is the most solid of aspects when considering Make Over (there are even some guitar solos that are rather on the impressive side). Howard's vocals fit the music well enough, but come off an unappealing, possibly merely due to the fact that they seem to be louder than the rest of the music. As her singing voice isn't too entirely strong, she may benefit a little more from having a lower volume on her vocals and a higher volume on the music. As far as her message, I appreciate what she has to say; "Throwing Stones" and "Walk the Talk" are a call to arms, if you will, for Christians to stop living hypocritically and start living a life of grace and love, and "Rise Up and Shine" is a song of encouragement to fellow believers. I just wish the messages would be wrapped up in lyrics that are a little deeper. It's nice to have blatant messages sometimes, but not at the expense of the lyricism. Eileen Howard and her band of musicians are talented, and Make Over could do you well if you're into jazz, easy listening and an upfront message without having to dig too deep.- Review date: 10/21/11, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Eileen Howard: Wow, that's quite a journey! That little rock band was just cover rock/pop songs for about a year in my distant youth when I lived in Chicago! But I really loved singing in it. Years later, after I'd had kids and they were a little older, I returned to the joy of singing and took some lessons. That led to auditions for musical theater as well as singing in the Toledo Opera Chorus. Then I got interested in jazz and worked with a few jazz musicians in Toledo. Later on, I revived my jazz career after we'd moved to Columbus. And then, with my church and The All People Band, we do everything from funk to Black gospel, to rock music. You can see I have VERY eclectic musical tastes.
Eileen: I play a little bit of flute. I know enough piano to compose a song and figure out chords, but I'm really a pretty awful pianist!
Eileen: On MakeOver, I mostly used The All People Band which is a group I formed as a church band for the United Methodist Church for All People. It now does concerts all over Columbus and we've done a little touring as well. There are a couple of tracks ("Rise up and Shine" and "Throwing Stones") which I'd previously recorded with my own jazz trio, The Eileen Howard Band. The All People Band consists of Ed Moed on keyboard, Chris Ciampa on bass (and on guitar on some tracks), David Bennett on guitar, and Gregg (The Governor) Pierson on percussion. The Eileen Howard Band tracks were recorded by Richard Lopez on keys, Roger Hines on bass, and Matt Wagner on drums.
Eileen: They were actually written over a very long period -- about six years. The first song was actually "Understanding," which I wrote around the time the U.S. was going to war in Iraq. I was so conflicted about Jesus' clear instructions about returning evil with good and loving our enemies compared with the sense of hatred and fear between the Muslim world and America. "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble," 1 John 1:10. I actually messed with that song for several years on and off before finalizing it. It was born out of a yearning for peace and understanding and also inspired by a sermon by Chris Ciampa (our bassist who is also an ordained pastor) about being part of the vine of Jesus Christ -- that if we try to cut others off from the vine, we will find we are cutting off our own branch. Around the same time, or maybe a little after, I wrote "Throwing Stones." It is also more of a lament about how human beings divide against one another and fight and destroy.
Eileen: Most labels do not accept unsolicited submissions anymore. I've relied very much on my own marketing but yes, I'd love to be signed to a label. I have, however, received some enthusiastic radio airplay. I got the most wonderful call from Rev. Jim Spence, a deeyjay with KHCA in Manhattan Kansas, who said "I have been playing your 'Make Me Over,' over and over and over. My listeners just love it, absolutely... I had so many calls, things just lit up. People wanting to know if there’s more songs coming… Thank you for 'Make Me Over,' I’m an ex drug addict and I’ve been through a lot in my life. And you just touched me.”
Eileen: Yes! I feel pretty strongly that there is too little Christian music (old or new) that actually explores and exalts the words and directions Jesus gave us for discipleship. And, no wonder! Jesus' message is very demanding. We talk the talk, but do we walk the walk of Jesus? There are many songs about how much I love Jesus and Jesus loves me. Don't get me wrong -- I believe that with all my heart! But... are we then taking the next step to walk the narrow path of discipleship? Are we really following Jesus' directions given at the Sermon on the Mount? Sometimes I feel like there are more judgmental Old Testament messages coming out of the mouths of Christians than there are loving Jesus-filled New Testament messages. What would Jesus do? I think to answer that, we must be steeped in what Jesus actually said we should do -- Love our Enemies; care for the last, the least and the lost; love even those of other faiths (the Good Samaritan and many, many other accounts of Jesus); forgive our enemies; pray for those who persecute us; love our neighbor as ourselves; return evil with good; give to all who ask us; judge not lest you be judged. Jesus had a lot of very harsh words for religious leaders who used scripture and religious law to castigate, control and abuse people. Love God, Love Your Neighbor -- that's on my license plate and on my heart!
Eileen: Oh there are so many -- I really love Black Gospel music -- especially the old stuff -- Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace recordings, Yolanda Adams, Walter Hawkins. In terms of lyrics, I just love Casting Crowns -- they hit the mark every time. I also enjoy Darlene Zschech. Caedmon's Call's Share the Well album is just awesome. Stephen Curtis Chapman has great lyrics and "What Now?" is one that just touches my soul. Mark A. Miller, a lesser known composer, has wonderful songs. Obviously, I'm really influenced by jazz, as you can tell from the songs on the CD. I also really love finding, and communicating the gospel in "secular" music. Any encounter with the arts can be a worship experience that can draw people into the love of God. That is one of the things we do with the Harmony on the Southside program that I lead. We bring the message of love, faith, hope and peace to the people of South side Columbus. In doing so, over and over again we've also invited people into a new or renewed relationship with Christ. All profits from this CD go to our programs.
Eileen: Definitely the All People Band. I love this band -- they can play anything in any style. They are great musicians and also walk with God and follow Jesus.
Eileen: Patience, patience, patience! LOL! It is probably my worst flaw. I am always in a hurry, always doing too much. I want God's justice RIGHT NOW! God's time is the right time and if I will just breathe and wait for it, I am at peace and raised up. The other is humility and confidence -- those seem like maybe they are very different, but I'm being taught that my talents belong to God and not to me. Any success I have is not due to my efforts -- it is due to God's grace, providence and purpose. This also means that I can have confidence in God's own purpose for those talents and not get hung up on whether or not "I" am a success.
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