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Kayla Howran Homecoming Show
A lively Friday night crowd packed the Cameron House to celebrate Kayla Howran’s safe return home from a tour of western Canada, where she was promoting her debut album Pistol. An electric vibe of anticipation permeated the patio and historic front room, because these fans had started to miss coming to her shows. Sometimes you don’t know how good you have it, in terms of music options, until one of the best options takes their band on the road, away from you. Howran is a gal you’ll want to tell your offspring you were around to see at the start. She is one of those rare performers possessed by genius. Notice we do not say possessed of genius but by.
She stepped to the mic and made frenetic little child-like noises of mischief as means of a sound check, and it became apparent something special was in store. As has become customary, she sang a mix of originals and country standards with a raw power that is scary-good, her brow furrowed contemptuously the whole time. As she did a spirited little crow-hop and spat out lyrics with an expressiveness that recalls the best punk performances, even those who wouldn’t know Kitty Wells from Katy Perry couldn’t help but marvel.
A young woman seated near the stage, while texting her boss to cancel a meeting scheduled for the next day, may have said it best, “This is the kind of music that makes you call in sick for work the next day.” Then she ordered another round of shots, perhaps inspired by Howran’s directive to “put some whiskey in my whiskey.”
Those who’ve been following Kayla since her start at The Cameron House expressed amazement at how far she’s come as a performer in just two years. Kayla herself credits her recent tour with a portion of that improvement.
“I discovered ways to keep my voice strong after playing every night. I learned, though I’m still learning, how to lead a band. Being a strong band leader is very important in the way the songs sound and play out. It also helps your stage presence. I also learned more about how I like my band to sound. The kind of bass tone I prefer, intros, outros, that sort of thing.”
Jay Swinnerton—a fellow Peterborough native, Tarantuela lead-singer and a dude who knows a thing or two about gruff vocals—has known Howran for more than just a couple years. “I met Kayla the first day of high school, and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s always had a bit of sass that she can easily translate onstage. When she started to strictly play more country music, she got comfortable quick. Kayla and myself like to belt it out once in a while. Maybe if we quit we’d sound like Captain and Tennille, but who wants that?”
Not the folks dancing and drinking on Friday night, that’s for sure.
Our western counterparts saw the best in Kayla as well, the Spruce Grove Examiner calling her, “a fiery artist whose sound is reminiscent of smoke-hazed, two-stepping, whiskey-drinking packed houses of the classic honky tonk era.”
The LA Beat called her, “a pint sized bundle of energy with a huge voice. She had her huge acoustic guitar hanging up around her chin like Dwight Yoakam, and let loose like a mixture of Tammy Wynette mixed with Miranda Lambert bad girl attitude.”
After Friday’s show, Sticky Magazine wrote, “The Cameron House, being a very well-dressed star of her own, is the perfect home for Kayla. She’s played the Cameron almost every Friday for more than a year, working on this material and building a fan base. Now that she has settled into a more “mature” once-a-month booking, she’ll have time to do some touring and the shows at the Cameron will have a home-coming aura. If you’re under the impression that nobody’s writing good country songs anymore, come out to the Cameron House and let Kayla prove you wrong.”
Both YouTube clips are from performances at Calgary’s Ironwood Stage and Grill.