For local musician Aaron D. Howell and power trio Lowercase Blues, music has always been a first true love. From Motown and blues to classic rock tunes, these Delawareans have brought forth the calming classic Southern style with their own originality.
Although each is occupied with their own shows and schedules, there’s a good chance that if you spot one, the other is not far behind.
Howell, who graduated from Indian River High School in 1997, said music has always been a tremendous part of his life. “I could read music before I could read words,” he said.
His musical career first began when he picked up a guitar at age 15. At that point, he began writing some of his own works and perfecting his musical talent. “From then,” Howell said, “it basically became getting the confidence and the ability to trust your voice when you sing.”
As his musical aptitude progressed, Howell’s appreciation and dedication toward music is fueled more and more. “It’s a labor of love. On guitar, you have to be really patient and put in a lot of time before you see any results.” But precious time spent and consistent practice has brought him to a very comfortable position in his career today.
With a repertoire ranging from reggae, rock and blues, Howell said, “I play a little of everything. There’s really no way to precisely put it.” His soothing originals, he claims, are “on the lines of Jack Johnson and Tom Petty.”
“There’s still not a day that goes by that I don’t get nervous before I play,” admitted Howell. “I feed off of that, though. Adrenaline can bring about multiple reactions.”
As he perfected his art, Howell found himself booked for more and more shows. He met the guys of Lowercase Blues at an open-mic night, and they immediately hit it off. “Some nights, they’d back me up if I needed it, or I’d jump up and play with them just to jam out.”
Lowercase Blues’ lead vocalist and bassist B.J. Muntz said that working with Howell is always a lot of fun — not only for them, but for listeners as well. “Everyone seems to have a great time.”
Though Lowercase Blues has been together for roughly three years, the Newark and Wilmington musicians are looking to record their third album next year. The band will be traveling to Nashville to work with legendary blind keyboardist Johnny Neel, formerly with the Allman Brothers Band, who will help produce the album.
“The first [album] was a little underdeveloped,” said Muntz. “We’ve grown and evolved as a band since then.”
The trio took top honors at the 2006 Battle of the Bands at Seacrets in Ocean City, Md., and has performed at the Delaware State Fair the past three years, where they were selected as the finale band earlier this year. They have also opened at the Bottle & Cork in Dewy Beach for names like Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, John Corbett and .38 Special.
Electric blues is best used to describe Lowercase’s music, but the band is not limited to what they put out. The trio is known to cover titles from artists such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and Z.Z. Top, but most of their performance is original work.
Muntz said he listened to a wide variety of music growing up, from which he received much of his inspiration, from Latin to blues, jazz and classical. “I listened to a lot of Stevie [Ray Vaughn] in my day, and Phish and some James Brown,” he said. “Funkadelic’s ‘Let’s Take it to the Stage,’ I think everyone should own that album.”
Lead guitarist Jake Banaszak, drummer/vocalist Paul Weik and Muntz live together at their Rehoboth Beach house, which makes touring to gigs a little easier.
“We play a lot of shows up in Wilmington,” said Muntz. During the cooler seasons, Newark becomes the hotspot, as school gets back in session. The Delaware shore is an ideal place in the summertime.
“When [Lowercase Blues] is up there,” said Howell, “they’re playing in-your-face, heavy-thumping blues, then they’ll bring it back down and be really laid-back, then they’ll bring it back up and hit you again. Then they call me up there and we’ll do something totally off-the-wall, like a Bob Marley cover. It’s a free-for-all with them.”
When not appearing with Lowercase Blues, Howell continues local shows, often with the aid of local drummer Adam Ask and bassist Bob Harvey, though he can also be spotted working solo, and at The Chalkboard’s open-mic night every Thursday evening. He’s also enjoyed plenty of radio airtime, which, he said, has been a great opportunity for his name to get out and get bookings.
Working gigs from Bethany down to Ocean City is quite a reward, noted Howell. He receives strong support from his family and friends. “At first, I would rather play for a bunch of strangers than my friends, but now it’s got to the point where I want my friends there. They challenge me to play different songs, and get myself better. I’ll always be my worst critic, but sometimes when you have good friends out, they can get you pretty good, too.”
When he’s not performing, Howell spends much of his time working at his father’s florist shop in Selbyville. “Family’s always been really important to me,” Howell said. “They’ve been right beside me my entire life.”
Howell said that although he’s trying to get to the point that he can be signed to a recording deal, he enjoys just taking it slow for now. “Next year, I’d like to start recording some of my stuff. Honestly, I’d like to do my first album myself. I’m not looking to jump to some major record deal or anything like that.”
Lowercase Blues is also looking ahead.
“I’d like to travel a little more,” said Muntz. “We get gigged seven nights a week in the summertime. Even in the winter, we’re playing three nights a week. I’d like to do it in different towns. We’ve been tackling Delaware.”
“It’s not about being a multi-millionaire or being rich and famous like you see on TV,” said Howell. “Being able to make a living off of what I love doing and something I’ve been doing all my life is something cool. You dream big, but you’ve got to take it in small steps.”
Wednesday, Nov. 15, at The Chalkboard in Bethany Beach, marked the first night that both Howell and Lowercase Blues were booked for separate shows at the same venue. Both are scheduled to return for shows every other Wednesday thereafter, continuing Nov. 29.
“We’re going to keep doing this as long as people keep coming out,” said Howell.
The Chalkboard’s bar manager, Chris Carter, was optimistic about their popularity. “They have been our two strongest draws,” said Carter. “It just makes sense to bring them all together. They really put on an incredible show.”
For information about Aaron Howell, including show dates and original songs, visit his Web sites at www.aarondhowell.com and www.myspace.com/aarondhowell. For information about Lowercase Blues, go to www.lowercaseblues.com or www.myspace.com/lowercaseblues.