Seattle is a town full of music. From indie rock to folk to rap, the city boasts a bevy of thriving scenes. These days, those scenes tend to cross-pollinate. And that can result in something powerful, especially when a traditional gospel singer is part of the mix.
Josephine "Josie" Howell grew up singing gospel music in church.
"I still do," she points out. But these days you're just as likely to find Josie Howell in a hipster nightclub, performing with her new bandmates as part of the group Radio Raheem.
Named for the character in Spike Lee's film "Do The Right Thing," the band Radio Raheem writes what it calls apocalyptic electronic music. But according to band member Bryan Cohen, something was missing. The band needed a singer, and they wanted something they didn't hear on the club circuit. So Cohen reached out to Seattle gospel legend Patrinell Wright, the founder of the Total Experience Gospel Choir. Wright recommended they contact Howell.
"When we rehearse without Josie, we're a good band, we're good musicians," Cohen says. "With her, we are out of this world. We're in a fifth gear, like I feel sometimes we're a version of interstellar Led Zeppelin."
Which is all new to Howell. Howell says Radio Raheem's songs took her out of her comfort zone. "I'm used to singing something I believe in," Howell says. "Bryan told me these songs don't really have that, so I give them my own kind of meaning."
Howell adds if the lyrics include curse words, she tells the guys she just can't sing them. So Cohen and his songwriting partners have cleaned up their act a bit. The result: rock music with a gospel heart, if you will.
Radio Raheem has just released an EP called "Raheem Rising." At a club gig in early December, Cohen says Howell had the audience on its feet, dancing. "When we play live, the people get up," Cohen laughs. "Josie demands it."