No Rules

No Rules

by Rebecca Lynn Howard


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No Rules

Now this is a surprise. Country singer and songwriter Rebecca Lynn Howard scored a Grammy in 1997 for "Singing Softly and Tenderly," which appeared in the film The Apostle starring Robert Duvall. In 2002 she scored a number five hit on the country charts for the single, and it ended up in the Providence TV soundtrack along with the title track from her album Forgive. In the liner notes she claims she toured for three years in support of it. No Rules is Howard's first album in six years and it's a jump from anything she's done in the past. For starters, it was recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL, and it appears on the independent Saguaro imprint. That said, No Rules is a record Nashville couldn't release. It's too up-front, too raw and immediate, too spontaneous. Produced by Michael A. Curtis, these 14 songs contain ten originals and four covers. The styles showcased here jump all over the map from hardcore funk (albeit it done Muscle Shoals style) to soul, gospel, and contemporary Nashville country -- but done without the cookie-cutter sound. The highlights are considerable, and include the burning opener "Shakey Ground," which was a hit for the Temptations and written by the team of Jeffrey Bowen, Al Boyd, and the late Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel! The feel of the tune is very different, but she can sing funk like nobody's business. Its production is polished, its style is gritty and immediate, and Howard sings her ass off on top of roughhouse guitars, fat basslines, and breakbeats! Her entire vocal range (three octaves) comes into play here. Another notable cover on the set offers Howard's sheer chutzpah: the Dan Penn-Chips Moman standard "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," so closely associated with Aretha Franklin. Howard doesn't try to imitate that version -- wisely -- but she doesn't need to. She does this strictly old-school Southern soul style, with a rhythm section that feels like Booker T. & the MG's. She uses restraint and lets the subtlety in the lyric direct her. Her own "New Twist on an Old Groove" is a tough, rebellious blues-rocker that reflects more of the hard soul twist in Howard's singing than either of the aforementioned classics. The saxophone, slide guitars, roiling B-3, and backing chorus that crosses between gospel and R&B in feel don't hurt, either. Oh yes, it's such a brazenly sexual song that its heat pours through the speakers. It's the kind of sentiment that men fantasize about regarding women all the time, but by and large can't handle in relationships. Her sweaty country-rocker "Just Let It Burn" shuffles and swaggers, spits and struts its carnal truth. There are a few ballads as well, including the moving -- and largely acoustic -- shimmering soul-pop-gospel ballad "As One as Two Can Be." Its lyric and musical structure are actually perfect, but it is made nearly divine by Howard's powerful from-the-gut delivery. It would make any man's heart melt were he its subject. This is pure pop poetry, body and soul. "I'm Over You," written with Rachel Thibodeau, would be the perfect radio single (and video) were its programmers smart enough to pay attention. No Rules reflects the enormous leap in creative growth that is the measure of a consummate artist; it is easily Rebecca Lynn Howard's finest, most consistent record to date.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/17/2008
Label: Saguaro Road Records
UPC: 0610583233124
catalogNumber: 80002

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Rebecca Lynn Howard   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Larry Franklin   Fiddle,Mandolin
Owen Hale   Drums
Jimmy Johnson   Electric Guitar
Lenny LeBlanc   Background Vocals
Marie Lewey   Background Vocals
George Marinelli   Electric Guitar
Doug Moffett   Saxophone
Harvey Thompson   Saxophone
Bob Wray   Bass
Michael Spriggs   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Mark Fain   Upright Bass
Gordon Mole   Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ
Mike Pyle   Background Vocals
Jenny Wilson   Background Vocals
Angela Hacker   Vocals
Doug Stokes   Background Vocals
Rachel Thibodeau   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Radney Foster   Composer
Dan Penn   Composer
Jeffrey Bowen   Composer
Michael Curtis   Composer
Theodore Gentry   Composer
Will McFarlane   Composer
Steve Melton   Engineer
Chips Moman   Composer
Roger Murrah   Composer
Keith Stegall   Composer
Robin Lee Bruce   Composer
Rebecca Lynn Howard   Composer,Liner Notes
Mike Jackson and the Soul Providers   Executive Producer
Olivia Kim   Editorial Research
Rachel Thibodeau   Composer

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