The album title, Hourglass, with its themes of despair, hope, healing, resolve, the inevitability of fate, and the road, viewed through the lens of passing time, is taken from the lyrics of the opening track:
“You may be shattered like the hourglass,
Grains of sand on dying grass,
Winds rage and howl at your battered soul,
Deep inside something keeps you whole”
Howard Gladstone experienced a sudden onset spinal stenosis in 2014 that resulted in debilitating spinal surgery. Initially he was totally paralyzed and completely immobile. It was a slow gradual recovery. After three years, Howard is able to return to music, his passion, with a higher level of commitment and inspiration. During this period Howard understood at a deeper level the healing power of art and music. The songs Howard wrote for this album reflect a quiet despair, but matched by an optimism fuelled by hope.
Howard wishes to direct these songs to those in need of a message of hope.
The musicians on Hourglass are Howard Gladstone (songwriter, vocal, acoustic guitar); Tony Quarrington, (guitar), Laura Fernandez, (vocal); George Koller, (upright bass); Great Bob Scott, (drums, tracks 6-9).
Preview songs from Hourglass on Soundcloud.
Track 1- My Heart Won’t Let Me Keep Still
Track 2- Granada Nights
“Here’s a song inspired by a sunrise I observed in Varanasi, India, the holy city on the Ganges.” Candles On The River. Not your typical song introduction. That’s because Howard Gladstone is not your typical singer-songwriter. Careful though, he could fool you. If you were in a club or listening music venue, at first blush, you could get that folky troubadour vibe from Howard. He’s certainly got that intricate, melodic finger-picking down to where the guitar is a natural extension of his hands. Not that he will admit it. Damn, he still occasionally writes and performs political, socially conscious material that is contemporary. Who does that? Folky or not, very few.
As the first couple of melodies lure you in, delivered in a comfortable Cohen-esque croon, the range of Gladstone’s curiosity, musically, lyrically, begins to take shape. He can’t help himself from unleashing a bluesy groove. The oft-plainspoken vocal style finds the appetizing curves of a tune and can’t resist holding a few notes a little longer, singing-out, inviting you to participate. Truth is, he’s travelled the world, and written about it.
As a student in 1969, Howard had the opportunity to interview Robbie Robertson (you should ask him about it; I would). Just a few years younger, it’s far less of an eager reporter looking to make a mark, and more of a conversation, revealing more than a series of hard-hitting questions would, and giving us a glimpse into the man behind the songs. This approach served Gladstone well back then, and it continues to do so.
We could talk at length about the variety in Gladstone’s material. The satire of being South of the Border. The globalization and corporate indifference of Goin’ Offshore. The black humour of spending Six Weeks In A Plaster Cast. The beautiful ache when you Fall So Deep into a dream that’s come true. Surveying the history of the blues, Down In The Delta, a rapidly changing southern environment where casinos are replacing sharecropper’s cabins. There is always the studious crafting of the songs, told with a journalist’s detail and a film-maker’s eye, but Howard pulls us in by keeping things on a personal level, where the singer, the voice, is never far from the action and the consequences they bring. That’s where the Gladstone magic really happens, his brush swirling the colours around. Taking us to Kauai, painting us the Technicolor scene, and then pushing it to the background to remind us what happens when two people are alone together in the moonlight.
About his first CD, Sunflowers Light the Room, the late, revered songwriter Norm Hacking wrote, “This CD is, in the end, a generous and heartfelt invitation to join a sincere, insightful artist on an uncompromising journey of passage and revelation. It’s all about the moments that heal, and unite, and help to fuel the light.” The following two releases found Gladstone continuing that journey, while exploring recording technique and environment, personnel and stylistic opportunity. The culmination of those endeavours lay in his latest recording effort, Roots and Rain, where those healing moments resonate more deeply, the production and musical collaboration moving in-step with the singer and the songs, and Gladstone rewarding listeners with his truest expression to-date.
As a solo performer, Howard Gladstone is eager to engage the audience, revealing the stories, inspiration and experiences that gave birth to the songs, and equally keen to find out what the audience knows, as much as sharing what he has uncovered. This approach carries over to the countless shows he’s done with a variety of band formats, duo’s, trio’s, etc. Gladstone uses the written songs as a starting point, inviting his musical accomplices to continue the exploration he’s begun, seeing what else can be found.
No one has found more than in Howard Gladstone’s music than producer/guitarist Tony Quarrington. Without question, on most nights, you could walk into a Toronto-area club, and hear Quarrington play invigorating, imaginative guitar. Between Howard and Tony there exists an authentic chemistry. It reaches beyond the four albums they’ve made together, or the slew of live appearances. It’s not just that they can match each other musical style for musical style. Quarrington shares an acute understanding, both lyrically and musically, of the Gladstone material. In return, Howard seems to sense when Tony is the verge of doing something beyond his usual extraordinary, motioning for another round, sending Tony into unchartered-waters. The result is usually the room’s collective jaw dropping. The kind of experience that refuses to be replicated.
-written by Kevin Zarnett (who also acted as recording engineer, and played bass guitar on two of Howard Gladstone’s albums).
Howard Gladstone also has a professional business career. He was the founder and CEO of Plitron Manufacturing Inc, a leader in toroidal transformers for the audio and medical industries, until he sold his interest in 2016. He subsequently founded Torus Power Inc which specializes in power conditioning for the audio/video industry.
In 2017 he has founded Sonic Peach Music, along with Laura Fernandez, an independent record label which will specialize in high resolution audio recording.
As a volunteer, Howard Gladstone is part of the group that revived Toronto’s fabled acoustic music club, Hugh’s Room, after it was shuttered in January 2017 and brought it back to life as Hugh’s Room Live.
Howard has also made several trips to India, and is a member of the volunteer organization that supports the SKGA children’s home in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu,