Based out of East Nashville, Tennessee, Drew Holcomb has been making excellent roots-rock music for around 15 years and in ‘Dragons’, the latest release, he has continued that standard. This is an album with lots of energy and positivity, covering a few diverse topics, but with the underlying thread of Family throughout. There are songs referencing his wife (singer Ellie, who features on the album), son, grandfather, brother and the Family itself, all of which extol the virtues of each of those relationships with Holcomb. He clearly considers himself to be a lucky guy in the family arena.
Opener, ‘Family’ (natch), is a fun, up-tempo number with a Paul Simon-ish feel, we’re all in this together, “kick off your shoes and dance”, with an accompanying video that complements this optimism perfectly. ‘End of the World’ has a touch of Train about it, bordering on anthemic, let’s all flick V signs at what the world throws at us, kick back and “revel while it lasts, it’s the end of the world”. A love note to Mrs H (who also features on the track) follows, easy paced piano, organ, and guitar, admitting to forgetting what she ate at a certain restaurants, or what she wore on a particular date nights, and so on, but ‘I’ll Never Forget the Way You Make Me Feel’.
‘Dragons’, co-written and featuring The Lone Bellow, is an uplifting tale of a visit from the ghost of Grandpa with a message to live for today, for yourself, take chances and “go slay all the dragons that stand in your way”. Minimal guitar and drums create the perfect atmosphere. ‘See The World’, a song to a son, almost envious – “I can’t wait for you to see the world with your own eyes” – is pleasant enough and ‘You Want What You Can’t Have’ (co-written and featuring Lori McKenna) has the most standard country flavour, with slide and steel guitar, in the shape of perhaps Alan Jackson.
‘Maybe’ features Natalie Hemby of The Highwomen, with a more contemporary country feel, guitars, slide, and swelling organ, reflecting on the burdens of modern life….“maybe we’re not supposed to try everything”. Another joint effort with McKenna, ‘Make It Look So Easy’, is among the most radio-friendly, another upbeat guitar driving number, the author’s acceptance that “loving me is an uphill battle/but you make it look so easy”.
Even after 20 years since his brother passed, ‘You Never Leave My Heart’ is a touching reflection on how that loss is still raw – “it’s always a benediction, to be reminded that you’re gone” – the song building to a great raucous crescendo before falling away to guitar and a fading single organ chord. The final track, ‘Bittersweet’, is another joint writing effort, this time with the album’s producer, Cason Cooley, with an opening that is almost Killers-esque, synths and talk of boys and girls, and changes of pace, all very interesting. An excellent way to end the record.
This is a very listenable album: well-constructed songs with strong melodies, fine storytelling and a very positive vibe throughout. The family unit is obviously thriving in this part of East Nashville.