Cranford Hollow “Color/Sound/Renew/Revive” (Swampfire Records, 2017)

If Americana-UK were to judge the merits of a band’s music by the length, density and texture of their beards, then Cranford Hollow would score ten out of ten by a country mile. They are hereby awarded this year’s Bic Disposable Razor Award (other brands are also available) for the best beardage we have seen in a long while. May I suggest they try applying a little Honest Amish Beard Balm Leave-In Conditioner. Your beards will thank you for it, guys.

Listening to And You Brutus one begins to understand why they have adopted the facial-fur. This hard-working, always touring, South Carolina outfit, who hail from Hilton Head Island, sing about the deprivations of life on the road, ‘telephone receivers just begging for Listerine / truck stop soaps and sick-bed sheets/ no shower till you pay’, so it’s easy to see why they have opted for their hirsute style. Life is made much easier with that authentic, just rolled out of bed with food fragments encrusted look. It’s one I have adopted myself. If you’re caught out with no grub in the house, you can tongue just enough crumbs of All-Butter Shortbread from the recesses of your beard to keep you going until lunchtime.

Some people find the buzz of an electric razor to be an excruciating sound. In her book Listening To Noise And Silence: Towards A Philosophy Of Sound Art, the sound artist Salome Voegelin defines noise as being interpreted as: those sounds that we hear that we find unpleasant, we classify as noise, whereas the sounds that we find inviting and enticing, we deem to be music. Cranford Hollow’s presentation of Noise is most definitely the later. A unique soundscape initially intrigues with its distinctive rhythmic structure and then it gets its cyclic hooks into you with the chorus; Jon Cranford implores one to listen while he grabs you with an emotive ‘breathing this bitterness, while holding on to you / sinking this switchblade of emotional toll…noise, noise,noise,noise.’ Nice piano break too.

North utilises a sample of Robert F. Kennedy’s speech to citizens of Indianapolis on April 5th 1968, the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, to great effect. Remembering that incredible man and his tragic demise adds poignancy to this song. There’s a lovely union of guitar and fiddle on this track which exudes gravitas. It sounds rather like The Edge teaming up with Byron Berline. Cranford’s guitar riffs inter-act with Eric Reid’s fiddle runs beautifully, combining with the piano to produce a sense of profundity that will be met with iPhone torches and lighters held aloft by swaying crowds, which could definitely also apply to the anthemic Swing. The wonderfully named drummer, Randy Rockalotta, demonstrates some fine paradiddles over this melodic delight, which features an evocative fiddle and piano part. You won’t be stroking your beard while listening to this, I can tell you.

Dr. Alun Withey is researching the history of the beard at University of Exeter, with a study entitled ‘Do Beards Matter?’ How could the good Doctor ask such a thing? Bloody hell mate, of course they do. According to him, the current enthusiasm for all things beardy is nothing new. There was a fashion craze for the beard which was prompted by the return of British soldiers from the Crimean War in 1856, who, given their time in the battle-field and the rough conditions they had to endure, were applauded by the public on their return for their fine crumb catchers. This initiated a beard frenzy that was heartily approved by Queen Victoria. That probably happened during the American Civil War as well. Those interested in the history of their chin-curtains, might like to read Dr. Withey’s blog, which can be found at: https://dralun.wordpress.com/

There’s no doubt that the old flavour savours will continue to be de rigeur, and I feel assured that the chaps from Cranford Hollow will continue to be leading exponents of such exquisite gentleman’s grooming. Dear readers, please feel free to let Americana-UK know your candidates for the greatest face furniture devotee’s in music today. (Hello John Paul White and Cody Jinks!) Who knows, maybe we could even initiate a reader’s poll?

And for the benefit of anyone suffering from pogonophobia – a fear of beards – out there, please blame my esteemed colleague, David Cowling. It was his good self who led me into this razor-free zone!

Author: Muff Fitzgerald

Muff Fitzgerald has worked as a roadie, publicist, broadcaster and journalist. Music makes his world go round and round and round. Somebody make it stop, please!

Leave a comment..