Yet more evidence of the sheer quality of some of the music occupying the apparent wilderness of the independent scene comes in the form of Chicago-based solo artist Bowman.
A former student of Berklee School of Music where he “learned everything he didn’t want to be”, Bowman has already been voted Billboard‘s Best New Artist in February this year, and on the evidence of his mature debut album Believe that award is wholly deserved.
Displaying some of the finest pop-rock hooks you are likely to hear outside the Top 40 this year, the album’s crisp production belies its minuscule budget, and the strength of much of the material goes against the expected standard of a debut disc.
Bowman’s varied influences collide to spectacular effect on slamming opener “Tear My Heart Right Out”, which has a sound somewhere between Pearl Jam, Tom Petty and Gingersol, as well as a melody as infectious as a bout of flu in a doctor’s surgery. The song kicks off a superb opening quartet of tunes that have a lot to do with the enduring appeal of Believe, and provides a snapshot of Bowman’s songwriting prowess. The acoustic balladry of “I Remember” strangely follows such a hi-tempo start, but develops into perhaps the album’s strongest track, with its simplistic, introspective lyrics and some gorgeous Hammond work courtesy of producer Zoux. Indeed the Hammond organ provides Bowman’s songs with an intensity and depth to match his often raspy vocal performance, and quickly becomes a trademark of his sound on other standouts, notably the raucous rock of “Time” and poppier sensibilities of “I Don’t Wanna Die Today”.
After such an auspicious start perhaps it’s understandable that the labouring “Heart” fails to maintain such high standards. However, normal service is quickly resumed on the soulful “Waiting for a Better Day” (which shows Bowman is no slouch on guitar either) and the groovy ‘70s funk rock of “Walking Backwards” complete with a hook you could catch salmon on. Believe ends with the chugging rock of “Do What I Want”, framed by some unusual instrumentation.
At times Bowman’s voice seems to struggle and show signs of weakness, but overall the way Believe impresses with such well-crafted, considered songs and playing, Bowman may have to get a bigger mantelpiece to make room for more accolades.