Friday, June 9, 2017

Cranford Hollow - Color/Sound/Renew/Revive (2017)

Written by Montey Zike, posted by blog admin

The gradual evolution of a band, free from commercial pressures, is a fascinating thing. Cranford Hollow works in a style that isolates them from the need to score mainstream attention, not that it isn’t warranted, in order to turn a profit and justify their continued existence. Instead, they’ve built their well earned reputation on the backs of sterling live work and a commitment to producing albums reflective of where they are at a given point in their lives and musical journeys. The latest album from this South Carolina based five piece, Color/Sound/Renew/Revive, is a powerful reminder of what results following your Muse can produce. It’s a relatively brief recording, tallying only eight songs, but the band explores such a diverse array of sonic and stylistic identities over the course of this collection that they scarcely resemble the shit-kicking, whiskey-drinking four piece they began their run as. Instead, they have become so much more.

Color/Sound/Renew/Revive gets off to an impressive start with the track “Songfield”. John Cranford, the band’s lead singer and primary songwriter, still has the whiskey and nicotine wrecked grit. His lyrical contributions to the album reflect how his development at a writer has reached a stage where he seems completely freed to write about a variety of subjects with a mix of artfulness, suggestiveness, and specificity few of his contemporaries can hope to match. “Songfield” is uniquely the band’s own. The second track, “Long Shadows”, showcases the talents of the band’s fiddle player, Eric “Thunder” Reid, and his darkly lyrical playing is an important key to the song’s impact on the audience. There’s a more traditional bent to the album’s third track “Bury It Down”. The steady jangle of acoustic guitars and relaxed drumming are nicely punctuated by Yannie Reynecke’s bluesy and often blistering lead guitar lines. This is one of the most soulful moments on Color/Sound/Renew/Revive and John Cranford’s vocal has the same grit we heard before coupled with a surprising amount of sweet musicality.

There’s a much more current musical atmosphere surrounding “North” and it opens with a voice-over recording of a President John Kennedy speech. Naturally, Eric Reid’s presence means it remains wisely tethered to the band’s country/bluegrass roots, but the compelling groove provided by the drumming and Reynecke’s evocative swells of electric guitar give it a little added moodiness. They might surprise some with including an instrumental track as the album’s penultimate number, but “Dark Turns” doesn’t miss vocals and carries itself quite nicely on an album filled with eloquent lyrical excursions. It makes for an interesting pairing with the song “Swing” and Cranford Hollow truly captures the spirit of the song title without ever veering too far afield of the band’s musical wheelhouse. Cranford Hollow have arrived where they are with utter honesty. This is a band whose creative vision is organically shaped rather than resulting from market pressure. Despite their growing distance from traditional Americana, Cranford Hollow still embody the form’s strongest aspects and show no signs of slowing growth or stagnation.

Grade: A

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