Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Sounds: The Holloways have raw energy, anger, and something to say

With raw energy, copping an attitude, and casting a jaundiced eye about them, British band the Holloways take a look at their country and aren't exactly thrilled by what they see. In fact, it's a sinking ship "and someone's nicked the oars."

In the same vein, on the track "Reinvent Myself" the band observes "I'm sick and tired of all the hate and lies/ That seem to hang around the suits and ties."

For most of the disc, there's a punk energy, almost a DIY ethos as the band barrels along at a hectic pace with strong guitars and rowdy vocals. But just when you have them pegged as another pub rock/agit-pop band, the Holloways come through with a - dare we say it? - sensitive and thoughtful song about a lost soul on "Most Lonely Place."

The Holloways have something to say about life and love in Britain today, and they sound good saying it.


Even in the twilight of his illustrious career, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck plays with more heart, verve, and style than many other top-name artists. With the release of "Indian Summer" just four months shy of his 87th birthday, Brubeck performs gentle, captivating solos that tell a story of his life.

Starting with a poignant new rendition of "You'll Never Know," the disc is a mix of standards such as the title track, which Brubeck originally recorded more than 50 years ago, and lush contemporaries.

Brubeck will always be remembered for his impact on the West Coast Cool sound of the 1950s and his trend-setting work on such backbeat rhythm hits in the early 1960s as "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Now he may be slowing down, but this 16-song disc shows there is still a lot of music left in his fingers and in his imaginative powers to grasp the nuances of soft, elegant sounds, even if he's playing something as familiar as the Hoagy Carmichael hit popularized by Ray Charles, "Georgia On My Mind."


Let's chalk this one up to the enigmatic nature of Waterboys spiritual center Mike Scott and let it slide.

"Book of Lightning," which will be released Tuesday, is disappointing to a degree that is difficult to fathom. Responsible for some truly great music - most notably the albums "This Is the Sea," "Fisherman's Blues" - and always interesting, Scott misfires dramatically on the first Waterboys release in five years.

The first hint that something is amiss are the grinding, simplistic guitars on the opening cut "The Crash of Angel Wings." Rock has never been Scott's strong suit - he sounds far more comfortable on Van Morrison-like spiritual exhortations - and too much of "Book of Lightning" is based on routine electric guitar-centered arrangements.

Worse is the rudimentary writing that Scott employs on tracks like "Nobody's Baby Anymore" and "She Tried to Hold Me." Bitter kiss-offs to former lovers, he sounds like he's frantically searching through his thesaurus for rhymes.

When he rhymes "uranium" with "cranium," it's not creative; just ridiculous.


With his 22nd album, Steagall returns to the old-timey sounds of country and western music, with an occasional emphasis on western swing the way it was done in Bob Wills' time. Steagall has made a successful career out of performing cowboy music, smooth and danceable, along with unique cowboy poetry, and the songs here have that graceful, laid-back feeling.

Steagall digs into an interesting assortment of oldies here, not all of them even remotely associated with country music, such as the delightful "Somewhere My Love," on which he effectively applies his fiddle-heavy western approach,

He also adds a Who's Who of country legends for seven duets among the 13 tracks. These include Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, Charley Pride, Neal McCoy, Ray Benson, Larry Gatlin, and Charlie Daniels.

Not every duet is a knockout, but the ones that miss the big punch don't miss by much. A couple are extraordinary in their melodies and harmony.

The solo numbers, such as "Three Chord Country Song" and "The Fiddle Man" show that Steagall is still in peak form after more than 40 years.


Grunts, riffs, barks, screeches, snare slaps, chug-a-chug chords, dead eerie spaces, yelps - what do you call what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs do? To call their medium songs, in the traditional sense, sounds insubstantial. The best I can do is Scrap Metal. Because not only do the five tracks on this new EP, their second, sound like live outtakes of performance art, the raw, abrasive visceral punch suggests the last few minutes of a concert spiraling into chaos.

Scrap Metal, in short.

Ideal for an EP. Five years ago, when the New York trio and its next-gen Patti Smith of a leader, Karen O, became a word-of-mouth sensation, it was partly on that taste an especially fast, tantalizing EP provides. Two full albums later, the last of which sounded like an everyday blah indie-rock record and nobody loved, it takes a humble band to suggest perhaps terse violent bleats are what we do best and well-crafted songs are what we hate.

Though still in her early 20s, Karen O's voice is now turning on a dime from a bluesy growl to a tender vulnerability; and those stop-start rhythms now have the abandon of a stolen car gunning for the ruts in gravel road. These guys give me a glorious headache. I love them.


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