Stress Jingle/Station ID #35 : Don Howland

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Don Howland is an American musician and recording artist who has been creating a unique and influential body of work that is as vital and potent now as it was 3 decades ago. He is best known for founding seminal punk blues outfits The Gibson Bros and The Bassholes, other music projects include A Burning Bus and Wooden Tit. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Howland first joined The Great Plains, playing bass under the pseudonym of Hank O'Hare. Together with Jeffrey Evans (later of '68 Comeback), Howland formed The Gibson Bros in the mid 80s. Their unique blend of raunchy country/blues and primitive lo-fi punk paved the way for groups like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. In the early 90s, sometime around the dissolution of Spencer's previous band Pussy Galore, he and his wife joined an incarnation of the Gibson Bros. During one tour Howland played a cassette of obscure bluesman RL Burnside for Spencer. Years later, Jon Spencer would record and tour with Burnside, exposing his music to a new audience.

In 1992, after the Gibson Bros split, Howland formed The Bassholes - a two piece featuring Howland on guitar and vocals and Rich Lillash on drums, which single handedly started the whole lo-fi-two-man-blues-band genre, almost a decade before The White Stripes released their first album. The Bassholes are basically a solo vehicle for Howland's unique musical vision - a stripped-down, raw, blues-infected racket with dark surreal lyrics, reminiscent of the "Old Weird America" of the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music. Bassholes' records are, for the most part, extremely lo-fi affairs recorded on the cheap, connecting folk's one room microphone ambience with punk rock's DIY ethics. Even though the same influences that informed Howland when he was with the Gibsons continue to reverberate in what he does, the Bassholes have created a wild and varied catalog, being just as likely to cover Joy Division as Blind Lemon Jefferson, and incorporating an idiosyncratic assortment of ideas lyrically and sonically.

After Lillash left the band, Howland joined up with then-19-year-old drummer Bim Thomas (which in 2011 became the sonic monster OBNOX). The pairing proved fruitful as Thomas' enthusiastic, seemingly free-form drumming provided a launch pad for Howland's electric open string howling and wailing. Thomas refers to Howland as a music mentor, and he makes a point of covering his songs with OBNOX, as a way "to keep him in the conversation". Even though Howland currently lives in North Carolina and Thomas is in Cleveland, the pair still gets together frequently to record new albums. Their last two records, "And Without A Name" (2009) and "Boogieman Stew" (2013), are two powerful sonic masterpieces, and undoubtedly some of the finest music the duo has ever recorded. Other high points from the Bassholes discography include "When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again" (1998) and "Long Way Blues" (1996-98). But needless to say, all the band's releases are highly recommended and worth listening to.

Throughout his extensive music career Howland has maintained a day job as a school teacher, and at some point was a music writer, contributing articles to publications such as the Village Voice and Spin. Howland was also a member of the Columbus underground super-group Ego Summit (featuring Mike Rep, Jim Shepard, Ron House and Tommy Jay) which in 1997 released the aptly titled "The Room Isn't Big Enough". In 2012, he recorded a solo album, "The Land Beyond The Mountains", which music writer Richie Unterberger described as a "macabre mix of psychobilly, swamp rock, and Captain Beefheartian avant-garde weirdness."

"A lot of bands mellow with age. It's so prevalent among punk bands, that it's become pretty much a joke. (…) In the case of the Bassholes, this is patently fucking false. The Bassholes, eschewing the trope above, seem to change with the world at large, getting stranger and meaner, as the environment dictates. A two-headed monster, evolving in the fallout, into a mutant beast screeching and echoing the cacophony of western life in the year after the world was supposed to end. It's been 13 years since their debut and the Bassholes are definitely weirder and more dangerous than ever" Columbus Discount Records

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