Mississippi-born singer JK Howells teamed up with Grammy award-winning producing duo Milk + Sizz for his forthcoming EP, “Unpacked,” set to be released on July 13.
In the homey Empire Room of Icon Studios, the duo and the artist listened to the masters of four tracks as they finalized the EP.
On first listen, the blend of Howells’ experiences as a young man who grew up on Southern gospel quartets and Milk + Sizz’s unorthodox influence is evident.
To limit “Unpacked” to the category of millennial soul would be doing a disservice to Howells’ artistry. “Emotion” and “truth” are words Howells used to describe his own sound.
“I don’t want people to get caught up in instruments or production, but more so the truth of it,” he said. “When I’m singing, it should evoke an emotion.”
Howells’ sense of knowing when people feel something draws from his extensive performing experiences. He’s performed on cruise ships, Broadway-style theater and stage plays, and opened for acts like Kendrick Lamar and Bilal.
According to Howells, he’s performed on “every stage in Atlanta,” with the exception of arenas.
The production on the album, however, is just as special and meaningful as the truth element. Milk + Sizz, who like to describe themselves as “side door people” for their different approaches to making music, draw influence from everywhere.
The couple has both a Latin Grammy award and an American Grammy award. On the EP, there are faint traces of the Latino music that influenced them both, but it is mostly dominated by the “grungy, dirty” gospel sound Howells described as the essence of quartet music.
Throughout the EP, Howells comes in smoothly in the right places, and in others, hits listeners with raw runs, reminiscent of an old church singer.
A bluesy guitar riff ends the EP, almost serving as a reminder of who JK Howells is: a Mississippi-born blues boy in a rapidly changing world.