Some Dark Holler sounds exactly like what you think they would sound like with a name like that. But I could be wrong because I’ve never seen a light holler. On “Bar Tabs”, the opening cut, the harmonica sounds like it bounces off at least two hillsides before reaching the rest of the band and on the next song, “Cry For Me” the fiddle sounds like it’s traced the steps of the harmonica. Maybe that’s where the longing in the sound comes from, but I could be wrong.
Hollow Chest is a mood record, yet the songwriting is as strong as anything in this old-timey band genre. What’s refreshing here is that the songs feel ancient but the subjects aren’t dated. One thing that irritates me is an album filled with first person narratives of the struggles of life 200 years ago. The artist can share the world of another but it’s always better when it feels like they’re working through their own life. And the accents aren’t jacked to sound more ‘something’ either.
And after the distance of the first two cuts “Sweet Red Wine” sounds like it’s in your living room, the floor squeaking and shuffling with each foot stomp. Some Dark Holler have summoned the music from across the hills, down the erosion wrecked roads, and brought it next to the fire place. Like the news of a neighbor’s pain.
One of the downfalls of such a mood record is that one song to the next can begin to blend. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but what happens to me when I listen is that somewhere halfway through this 12 song/47 minute album I drift into dwelling on my own problems instead of fully listening to the ones here. I don’t live anywhere that I’ll have to deal with costume kids ringing my doorbell looking for candy but if I did Hollow Chest might be the record I left playing on a loop to scare them a bit. The echoes on this record follow the water downhill, collecting the stories of those it passes, and reminding all who hear them it isn’t always sunshine and pain free.