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Album Review | ‘Good Light’ aggregates band’s many influences

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 08:02


“Good Light,” the latest album released by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, embraces the band’s influences nicely, mixing country, blues, alternative and classic rock with a refreshing aptness. 

Holcomb’s voice carries evidence of his roots in East Nashville, Tennessee. “Another Man’s Shoes” has a bit of a country twang, but without the guitar typical of an actual country song.

The album begins with a hypnotic combination of guitar, vocals and very simple percussion on “Another Man’s Shoes.” It’s a peaceful song, and the harmony between Holcomb’sand his wife Ellie’s voices is soothing. They take the listener from this state of reverie about halfway through the song, when the guitar drops out and their harmony takes the stage.

“Good Light,” the song for which the album is named, starts strong with its country roots and, as it continues, incorporates the band’s other influences. The chords are typically those reserved for country music and the harmonica that leads the song off can easily carry its own, but the guitar solo brings out the band’s alternative-rock sensibilities and highlights some classical-rock influences. Finally, the organ provides a hint of Southern gospel. “Nothing Like a Woman” brings the listener back to the country influence towards the end of the album. This country song beautifully incorporates some of the band’s blues influences. The organ and the inflection in Holcomb and Ellie’s voices blend well into the song, making the blues aspects as unforgettable as the country aspects in this song.

“Can’t Take It With You” contrasts greatly with “Another Man’s Shoes” and “Good Light.” It is sad and mournful; in the first half, Ellie and Holcomb sound defeated, and this is followed by a second half that highlights the passionate and robust harmonies between Holcomb and his wife. “The Wine We Drink” follows in the same vein of “Can’t Take It With You.” It is slower; however, it relieves some of the anger and sadness that “Can’t Take It With You” builds.

“Tennessee,” Holcomb’s ode to his childhood, evokes a pride that can be felt in the break between chorus and verse. Don’t be deceived by the name and the occasional guitar slides; this is not a country song. It’s a ballad, with some mourning for time gone, but more with reflection and an assertion of the familiarity of home.

Holcomb’s duet with his wife in “I Love You, I Do” is interesting, with her jazz club singer-esque voice and Drew’s deep voice that has a distinct edge only attained by singing country music. The song is simple, clean and cute, but it differs greatly from the rest of their album. 

Throughout the album, songs influences’ vary greatly. However, some songs like “I Love You, I Do,” let too much of one influence take over, which can make the transitions from one song to the next difficult.

“Nothing But Trouble,” for example, will doubtlessly appeal to Creedence Clearwater Revival fans. The verses have traces of blues, and the song has a completely different tone from the rest of “Good Light.” Unlike “Nothing But Trouble,” “A Place to Lay My Head” begins slowly and smoothly; it is quiet, but passionate. It lets this passion build throughout the song until finally, Holcomb lets it explode out for the last quarter of the song. This progression is reminiscent of Mumford and Sons. “What Would I Do Without You” has an almost Jack Johnson feel to it. 

In fact, if Jack Johnson and Joshua Radin had a musical child, “What Would I Do Without You” might be it. It’s beautiful, simple and, with the twinge of sadness reflected in its chords, the guitar solo bears a lot of weight. “Rooftops” holds some of the same sadness and bears similar influences. The chorus takes a different tone, though. It conveys desperation through a powerful crescendo and repetition. It transitions smoothly into a guitar solo that carries much of the song’s weight.

The final song, “Tomorrow,” revives the hypnotic elements of “Another Man’s Shoes.” It brings the album full circle, setting it back down, gently, where it began. Still, the songs are not so similar as to be indistinguishable. For one, the emphasis on the drums in “Another Man’s Shoes” appears instantly, whereas the drums are virtually absent from “Tomorrow.”

“Good Light” provides a more meaningful music experience with a stronger focus on instrumentals than is common in today’s Top 40. There is real feeling and passion built into the album. While its themes are less consistent, it still conveys its messages effectively.

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