Friday, 11 October 2013

Hollis Brown - Ride On The Train

Album review by

Ten tracks, coming in under 40 mins and starting with the title-track. This is how albums used to be done, and it's so good to see that Hollis Brown are keeping, keeping on with the good stuff. As already said opener 'Ride On The Train' is is a Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame master class filled with touchstones of Dylan, Petty, Springsteen. It tells us of leaving New York "trying to make it a rock n' roll band", but for all these classic American milestones wrapped up in the song, this feels bright, addictive and you can hear the freeing rattle of the wheels on the track, the wind in your face as you head out into that glorious land. Full of hope and excitement. Now we have a gem of a guitar refrain sliding through 'Down On Your Luck'. Coming on like the Eagles "foolin' around" with CSNY, this is the sweetest slice of Americana. All delivered with true style and a certain effortless panache.

Now we head up into Laurel Canyon with 'When The Weather's Warm'. A more laid-back track, draped in the hallmarks of The Band and Jackson Browne. But for all these touchstones, none of 'Ride On The Train' feels like a re-hash. It has a timeless, classic quality to it that means it could of come out of the sepia-tinged '70s or surfaced in today's inter-connected age. Like Ryan Adams, The Jayhawks or Johnathan Wilson it is testament to the power of simply superbly-crafted and masterfully delivered music. Next up is the gentle bar room shuffle of 'Nothing & The Famous No One'. It is a deceptively simple and enchanting song that has your foot tapping and and you can not fail but to smile as the song skips along. The sweetest whistle takes you out on a charm. Then it all gets a little later in the evening, to the point where the intoxicants have us all in a state of looseness and abandon. The night is hot, sticky and sultry and so is 'Doghouse Blues'. Riding in on a loose-limbed hound dog groove it will get you dancing with whoever has caught your eye. Then we are treated to the hit of sheer class that is 'Gypsy Black Cat'. This has all the hallmarks of a thoroughbred slice of vintage American Rock. West, east-coast, it don't matter when it's as sublimely gracious and joyous as 'Gypsy...' is. A stand-out on the album.

We are then served up another stately hit of Americana with 'Faith And Love'. Vocalist Mike Montali has an impassioned, raw, soulful voice that stands him close to that of Ryan Adams and similarly 'If It Ain't Me' is easily the match of any of Adams' early, classic, Americana-drenched cuts. Lilting, bewitching and mesmerising, 'If It Ain't Me' is a perfect acoustic tale of longing. It has a grace and delight to it that is utterly beguilingly.  Like a golden shaft of sun breaking through the darkest of cloud-filled skies it hits you and shines brightly. On the flip-side there is a bittersweet, ultimately heartbreaking lean to the lyrics as we hear ,"that we're through". Another stand-out. 'Walk On Water' struts like a streetwalking cheetah riding a hubcap diamond star halo. It has an exquisitely filthy guitar not seen since Richards danced with the devil. This is a song of simmering intent and overwhelming, breathtaking New York nights where it feels like a Molotov cocktail is waiting to go off in the Bowery, and everything will burn as we all dance around the flames. The album couldn't have closed on anything more apt than 'Nightfall'. It has its arms around you and your new best friend. It pours you one for the road, and wishes you well, it smiles as you bid it farewell and sees you take her hand out into the night air where a new day awaits. 'Ride On The Train' is on sweet trip that will warm, comfort and excite you, and welcome you back time and again.

Hollis Brown's website

Stream the album in full

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Catch them live:

NYC, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl- 10/21/13
Asbury Park, NJ @ Wonder Bar- 10/26/13 *w/Jesse Malin
New Haven, CT @ Cafe Nine- 11/2/ 13 *w/Jesse Malin
Baltimore, MD @ 8X10 - 11/9/13 *w/Marco Benevento

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