A Review by Robert Dean
Many times when I hear the label “Americana” thrown around, I cringe. It’s become such a catch-all phrase, a hodge-podge of styles trying to describe one common ground: the lack of one element that’s rock or blues or country.
But, when I hear about bands doing the Americana thing from places like New York, I tend to get extra skeptical. While New York has churned out some of the best bands in history – down home blues is Chicago’s thing, and what does city slicker New York know about the country or the artist's struggle in a day where rent can financially ruin you? A lot apparently.
On Hollis Brown’s recent Record Store Day release, Cluster of Pearls, we’re witnessing a band figuring out their sound and getting the flavor just right. Even if it comes wearing a Yankees hat and likes bagels and lox instead of biscuits and gravy.
I’ll admit, I went, and YouTube searched Hollis Brown’s music before this review and was middle of the road on some songs for their reliance to trying to be too poppy, maybe a little too much like a Jason Mraz with dark soul or something you’d hear in Target. I dunno. I also think dipping grilled cheese into ketchup is delicious, so whatever.
On Cluster of Pearls, the music feels different. It seems focused, maybe evolved. And apparently, after some Internet snooping, Cluster of Pearls is a collection of B-side tracks, which is nuts. This collection feels like a nod to The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers and even some moments of The Stones in the Exile on Mainstreet era. And if anyone’s got something to say aboutt Graham Parsons, they can just fuck right off.
The record’s opener, "Completed Fool" sounds like a funky, bluesy Hall and Oates take on Maneater, except not shitty. (Sorry 80’s dorks. I hate Yacht Rock.)
The last track, "Miracle" gives off a City and Colour vibe that’s a nice change of pace for the overall composure of the record. There are a lot of shades of Hollis Brown on the record, and it’s rad to see the different shades of their musical personalities shine through.
"Don’t Want To Miss You" is easily the best song on the record. It’s a classic bar room bummer, and it’s done so well. With its lonely beer bravado, it paints the immediate picture of a candle lit dive with too few patrons and a bored bartender wiping glasses to pass the time. Nothing’s on tv and no one’s watching anything but the world pass by. And at the end, there you are – staring into your drink with no one around to complain to. Just you and the whiskey staring back, testing you. That’s what "Don’t Want To Miss You" feels like.
There’s a little bit of everything on Cluster of Pearls, with nods to riffs straight off a Black Keys record, and harmonious melodies that a focused and together ala – you guessed it, The Band. Naturally, when hearing the jangly, foot-stomping riffs of Hollis Brown, I imagine playing shows with bands like Quiet Hollers, or Brian Fallon.
If this is any indication of Hollis Brown’s path to follow, the results will be exciting to behold. I’ll even forgive them for wearing cowboy hats in New York.
You can only get Cluster of Pearls in record stores, if they have any left in stock, or eBay etc.
However, you can get Hollis Brown albums here http://www.hollisbrown.com/
or Amazon, etc.