When Gal Holiday’s Lost & Found (HTRP Music) crossed our path we had to slam on the brakes and check out the vista. In a sea of good music this year, this one is stand-out great. Produced by Jimbo Mathus and Vanessa Niemann, engineered by Bronson Tew at Dial Back Studio, this one is a sonic masterpiece. [To read our interview with Jimbo Mathus, click one of these bolded words right here.]
Gal Holiday’s songwriting is throwback country superb, with Niemann writing on all the songs, sometimes in partnership. The opening song “Let’s Run Away” comes on like a honky talk number and you can already see the dance floor filling up in your mind. “The Bottle and the Booze,” is a swanky tune and Gal Holiday’s, i.e. Vanessa Niemann’s, vocals are solid and croony. This song highlights the core band: Niemann on vocals, Matt Slusher and Justin LeCuyer on interweaving acoustic and electric guitars, with rhythm section Rose Cangelosi on drums and Cory McGillivary on bass.
“Loose Diamonds” might be the star of this stellar audio show, featuring Kel Kellum on pedal steel, in audio zigzags with Niemann’s speakeasy vocals bemoaning relationship disappointment. “Come Home” adds punctuation by Henry Westmoreland on trumpet; Danielle Marie on backing vocals too. On “How Could It Be” and “Treat You Better” you’re treated to some high quality, but subtle, Americana fiddle by Jamison Hollister.
You can’t deny the production quality on this one, it simply sounds great. Let me repeat: the sound quality of this record is superb. The instruments are choreographed so that each one has its place and the vocals glide over the top in clear definition. It’s a bit of a rarity these days to listen to a recording where parts and players aren’t getting in each other’s way, but this is that rare one. You can’t listen to this album without your mind drifting to wonder what kind of equipment, what kind of mics, what the process must have been to make it sound this clear, professionally level, and amazing.
In a supersmash hit film, it takes a star, a cast of supporting characters and a film director who has a vision to make it work to instill the intangible qualities together as a team to make it great, and you can hear the audio equivalent here, in the recording cast of characters in the mix, literally in the audio mix. Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, MS is owned by Matt Patton of the Drive-By Truckers, and was started by Bruce Watson of Fat Possum Records, so the lineage of integrity backing this album is clear. But every song bears the marks of the unmistakable touch of Jimbo Mathus’ production sense. And he lends piano and guitar to a few pieces, to boot.