• Bryon Harris

Justin Howl - "Things to Do"

Review by Brandon Watts & Staff

Justin Howl is an internationally touring blues and roots singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player based in Chicago, IL. Blues Blast Magazine called him a "strong singer" whose tunes "will strike a chord with you...and are intelligent throughout," in reviewing his debut album, Justin Howl and the Salty Dogs. His second album, a solo acoustic project titled Wanderlust, is scheduled for release on December 1, 2020. In advance of the album, "Things To Do" is a must listen.

Justin Howl’s “Things To Do” is a classic blues groove song with a modern twist. Off his upcoming album Wanderlust, the song is driven by a catchy bass motif that is accompanied by the growls of harmonica, mimicking the lead motif. With the groove set, Justin’s warm, low baritone, vocals guide the track in an almost spoken word manner as he begins to list the monotonous chores that he has to get done with a pleasant rhythmic bounce. Listeners will be drawn into the song immediately. The verses become relaxing as you become more and more hypnotized by the repetitive groove and calming vocals. You not only hear the day-to-day list, you feel it.

“Eat my breakfast, Make my bread, Shave my whiskers, Rub my head, Fill my car with gasoline, Call my sister, Don’t be mean”

This calm relaxing energy heard in the verses is then starkly contrasted in the hook, straying away from the relaxing bouncy rhythms of the verse and shifting to heavily strummed guitar that plays in unison with the harmonica as well as the vocals. This shift in energy represents the true nature of his emotions and thoughts under the skin while going through the motions of the day. Justin's vocal performance becomes soulful and bluesy at this point, erupting with what's on the inside. The chorus is is easy to relate to as Justin sings about all the external voices pointing you in different directions and the freedom of making your own choices even though those choices are limited.

"Well, the gavel pounding man says I’m wanted alive. My buddy tells me that you’d better drive. My daddy tells me that you’d better come clean, But the highway, baby, now is what I’m seeing. Yeah, the highway, baby, now is what I’m seeing."

While occupying himself with tasks that may seem meaningless, he is truly anxious about the future. As many of us have felt the constriction of being limited on what we can do during isolation, and the uncertainty behind this year’s election, “Things to Do” becomes an extremely relatable song now, but also in the future as it examins how we occupy our minds and how the little things get us by.

"Things to Do" is just a taste of what's to come on Wanderlust. With a well-concieved theme, thoughtful and intelligent lyrics, and engaging arrangement, as well as a soulful performance from Justin, "Things to Do" is a song to add to your "to do" listening list, if you are looking for music that is truly art.

Make sure to check out the record and look for Justin Howl’s Wanderlust for more insightful tunes.

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