Dandelionby Claire Holley
Claire Holley's fourth album, Dandelion, is the sort of record whose craft is so fine and so subtle that the music nearly gets lost in itself -- while Holley is a capable songwriter and her voice has a winning warmth and purity, by the time the 11 songs come to an end, you could have a bit of trouble recalling what most of the album sounded like. Dandelion leaves little doubt about Holley's obvious talent, and the production and arrangements (by Holley in collaboration with two of her sidemen, Steve Graham and Rob Seals) have an open and natural sound that favors the material, but the material is ultimately the problem with this album. Musically, too much of Dandelion follows a very similar path: calm midtempo folk-pop with a hint of country twang that's pleasing upon first listen but gets to be a shade monotonous over time, and her skill as a lyricist doesn't quite overcome the frequent similarity of the melodies. Which is a shame, because the buzzy country-rock of "6 Miles to McKenney" and the witty, understated throb of "Waiting for the Whales" suggest she has some other ideas in mind, and they stand out from the other cuts here simply by their willingness to do something different. Dandelion is a good record from an artist with potential, but it also suggests that Claire Holley would do well to find a collaborator who can make her final product as good as her raw materials.
- Release Date:
- Yep Roc Records
Performance CreditsClaire Holley Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,Hand Clapping
David Moore Harp
Danielle Howle Background Vocals
Steve Graham Acoustic Guitar,Bass
Evan Olson Tambourine
Eddie Walker Drums
Nic Brown Percussion,Drums
Will Straughan Dobro,Lap Steel Guitar
Mike Garrigan Background Vocals,Hand Clapping
Justin Rosolino Electric Guitar,Background Vocals
Rob Seals Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Hand Clapping,Slide Guitar
Chad Barger Hammond Organ,fender rhodes
Technical CreditsSteve Graham Producer,Engineer
Mary Gunn Graphic Design
Claire Holley Composer,Producer
Rob Seals Producer
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This album is another of my favorites. Her self-titled and Sanctuary are made of truly beautiful music and lyrics, as is this one. Dandelion is a bit more upbeat. A necessary addition to your music collection.
There are two elements of this album that stand out in immediate relief. First is the exquisite recording quality, a sound that leaps from the speakers with an articulation uncommon to both indie and major-label releases. Second is the inscrutably memorable opening track, with a bluesy slide guitar and harmonica hook that drive the title's refrain deeply into one's song memory. Hum "Stuck in the Middle With You" (or something from Sheryl Crow's debut) in your head and you'll get the idea. ¶ The rest of Holley's fourth album is a mellower affair, pleasantly taking advantage of the production quality, but never quite living up to the spark of the lead. At times she sounds like an Americana version of UK singer Donna Lewis, with perhaps a twist of Jewel's (or '60s folky Melanie's) naiveté and Suzanne Vega's sophistication. The warmth of Holley's voice, and her laid-back delivery, adds mood to the music more than it carries a lyrical message. What sticks in with the listener are the melodies and musical colorations more than the story details. Holley's voice is so pretty that it can be difficult to focus beyond its sound as an instrument. ¶ "Henry's" is more effective in communicating the song's rainy-afternoon setting, delineated by the song's electric piano and laconic vocal, than revealing the protagonist's story. Similarly, "Waiting for the Whales to Come" strikes home more with its loopy bass-heavy mix than its tale of whale watching. Several of Holley's songs sketch memorable characters or details, but the vocals require either intense concentration or lyric sheet reading to fully gather the stories. For the most part, Holley blends into the electric folk-rock backings, rendering this more mood music than statement. That's not necessarily a bad thing - this is an exceptionally pleasant spin - but it's probably not what a singer-songwriter aims for. ¶ 3-3/4 stars, if allowed fractional ratings.