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CD Review: Holler Wild Rose! – Our Little Hymnal (Backlight Records)

It is sad that most of today’s recording artists are more concerned about being in someone’s iPod or MP3 player than they are about releasing a solid album. When most artists are concerned about selling tracks and not albums as a whole, it is always refreshing to find bands and artists that want to record the music they make for the sole enjoyment of making music and releasing an album, and not releasing a single here or there. One band that seems to want people to enjoy their music as a whole and not just as singles is Holler, Wild Rose!

The New Jersey band released their debut album for Backlight Records almost a year ago in 2007. That album, Our Little Hymnal, is exactly the type of album that music lovers is looking for: a great from beginning to end, not just a bunch of singles grouped together for the purpose of being sold off separately to fill a person’s iPod.

Having existed a while under the moniker of another name, Holler, Wild Rose! took their name from one of their song titles. The band opted for this moniker over their original name of “aDive”. When the band went into the studio to create their debut release, the members consisted of John Mosloskie (vocals/guitars/banjo/and more), Ryan Smyth (drums/percussion), Ryan Cheresnick (guitars), Scott Vangenderen (bass), Mike Ortega (keys/guitars/vocals), and Lou D’Elia (Guitars). When the band takes to the stage, the group alternates between 5 and 6 members.

The band’s release, Our Little Hymnal, is not only a great album; it’s one of those releases that should be played from beginning to end. Put the CD in your player, and just let the music envelope you. Some of the songs are great modern rock songs; some songs however, like Sun Vines, bring to mind visions of musicians like Donovan. In fact, Sun Vines could easily have been written during the “summer of love”.

One noticeable difference between Holler, Wild Rose!’s Our Little Hymnal and other releases by other bands that are around today is that Holler, Wild Rose! took the time to make the songs on the album fit together. Whether it is because the themes that run through the album, or because the songs blend together with the help of selahs (a biblical term that has to do with preparing the choir to raise their voices), most of the album segues from one song to another, something that helps keep the listener’s attention throughout the entire length of the CD. One such selah separates “Holler! Wild Rose” from the second song entitled “Marylawn Hair”.

The easiest way to describe the sound of “Marylawn Hair” is to say that the song is pure Shoegaze at its best. The swirling guitars mixed with atmospheric distortion and vocals that have been buried by the production of the music create a track that is half distortion and half music with a heavy Indie Rock influence to it. But that is exactly what the band must have been looking for. And while Shoegaze may not be the most popular musical styles, the song from Holler, Wild Rose! is one of the best examples of the style.

The track that best exemplifies what the band is about has to be the song “Poor In Spirit”. This track, for lack of a better term, is “Expansive”. Meaning that the song covers over ten minutes and the production value makes the music and vocals feel lightly far away. And one feature of the song is a rather sparse feel to the music as each note is drawn out while extended periods of notes fading off into the distance accompany each of those rare notes. And while that may sound boring, the way the band makes the listener hang on to each and every note helps to make time pass faster than one would realize. “Poor in Spirit” has a sound that can be just as addicting as it is somewhat irksome.

Some of the songs are great modern rock songs; some songs however, like Sun Vines, bring to mind visions of musicians like Donovan. In fact, Sun Vines could easily have been written during the “summer of love”. The track features a strong Folk-like quality to the Rock and Roll, in a style very much like what Donovan would have created. The track features a strong retro vibe to the music itself while the addition of the reverb on the track brings to mind production quality from more than thirty years ago.   

To make an album like this, Holler, Wild Rose!, drew from many different musical elements. On the song “Thief in Our Bed,” the band blends their Indie Rock sound with even more Folk influence. The track’s music and lyrical content both seem to borrow largely from that genre as the both the music and words have a simplicity to them. Plus, the inclusion of Folk influence is more than evident as the song seems to feature lyrics that tell a tale of a couple that is torn apart by an extra person in the relationship.  

Our Little Hymnal, the 2007 debut release from Holler, Wild Rose!, is 12 tracks of music that appear to have been written as a single album of songs that interweave with each other, and not as individual singles for the use of downloading one track at a time. With the use of sound effects and segues; the release is an effortless listening experience… and one hell of an album, all the way around.

For more information on the band, Holler Wild Rose can be found on the Internet at www.hollerwildrose.com. You can also find the band on MySpace at www.myspace.com/hollerwildrose. The label for the band can be found at www.backlightrecords.com.

Matheson