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Howard Markman & Palookaville / Press

““I don't think Baltimore is a muse for a certain kind of musician. Baltimore is just a great muse,” says musician Howard Markman. “You can go from the classic country song ‘Streets of Baltimore’ by Harlan Howard and Tompall Glaser, to Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Baltimore Oriole,’ to Randy Newman’s ‘Baltimore,’ to Lyle Lovett’s ‘Baltimore.’ The only thing they all have in common is—well, Baltimore.” Markman and eight other Baltimore artists will perform at the Creative Alliance on November 20 in a concert sponsored by Roots Cafe, “The Streets of Baltimore: Songs of Our City.” Markman, known for his guitar improvisations with Freewater in the 1970s and Disappear Fear in the 1990s, will perform two of his own songs, “Welcome to Smalltimore” and “Baltimore to Bethlehem,” as well as Arty Hill's “I Left Highlandtown.” ... admits Markman. “I am a born and bred Baltimorean. There's a little Old Bay in everything I sing and play.””

““I don't think Baltimore is a muse for a certain kind of musician. Baltimore is just a great muse,” says musician Howard Markman. For Markman, Baltimore’s complicated past and present make for great songwriting material. “Baltimore is an almost contradictory blend of southern roots, northern blue collar grit, and immigrant wanderlust/wonderlust,” he says. “Plus syllabically it works well in songs.” “Though I totally love the idea that we celebrate living in Baltimore, and many of the songs do celebrate our city, some of the songs are not celebrations, but snapshots of the darkness, harshness, sadness of life in this city. Maybe it's an acknowledgment of all that Baltimore is, has been, and could be,” admits Markman. “I am a born and bred Baltimorean. I've traveled a lot and though there are many places I love to go, to visit, to explore, Baltimore is still the place I feel at home. There's a little Old Bay in everything I sing and play.””

“In a Smalltimore state of mind Songwriter Howard Markman gives Baltimore provincialism its own anthem. ...The charm of the song, I think, is its understatement. Despite a couple of standard Bawlmer references — there are nods to Formstone and the Domino Sugars sign — the song manages not to come off as a corporate jingle for the Hon industry. Some of that is Markman's sense, even now, of being something of an outsider, even though he's a second-generation Baltimorean. The song "plays with that dichotomy," he said, of a town of people who come from all over — but once here, somehow adopt the city's trademark provincialism.”

“Two years ago, Mel Gibson's production company snagged Markman's poignant and catchy "Almost Home" for its Emmy-winning Carrier documentary, a 10-part series about life aboard an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if some local media outlet snaps up this disc's bouncy title cut about living in Smalltimore. With Markman's homespun delivery and chiming guitars, offhand mentions of Formstone and the Marble Bar, and a verse that rhymes "Domino sign" with "B&O line," it exudes an unassuming confidence that suits its subject. The nine songs that follow balance world-weariness and plucky cynicism, with instrumental nods to roots rockers Mark Knopfler (check out Paul Margolis's stellar solo on "Road to Damascus") and Jerry Garcia also in the mix. Smartly, Markman uses quirky, virtuosic keyboard parts by Crack the Sky's Glenn Workman to add texture and a sense of sonic surprise that never feels convoluted or pretentious. And that's just right for Smalltimore.”

“It isn't everyday that Mel Gibson comes calling to a relatively unknown songwriter. But that's what happened when Gibson's Icon Productions found Howard Markman's "Almost Home" ... placed song alongside tunes by Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, and The Killers in PBS' Carrier documentary.”