REVIEW: Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors’ “Dragons” is a Diverse Stroll with Wonderful Phrases


Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors’ Dragons exists somewhat in a Mark Germino, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller structure & in the case of “End of the World,” a little Hootie & the Blowfish with their confection of melody & energy.

With their Aug. 16th Dragons (Thirty Tigers) – the band unleashes a nice diverse stroll through adept songwriting & playing. The Memphis/East Nashville, TN band Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors (formed 2006 – is Drew (lead vocals-guitar-harmonica), Nathan Duggar (guitar, keys), Jonathan Womble (drums) & Rich Brinsfield (Bass).

“Family,” opens with a unified vocal style punctuated by sharp instrumentation sweet as cotton candy at a carnival. By track 3 — “But I’ll Never Forget the Way You Make Me Feel,” the drive shifts down into a more serious mood. This reminds me of Dr. Hook’s “Years from Now.” This was not a novelty song by Dr. Hook – this was a classic.

The title song “Dragons,” has a little melodic feel of an old Waylon Jennings’ tune — “Luckenbach, Texas” but, hey – could be more compliment than imitation. Drew Holcomb has a pleasant singer-songwriter style. Not too deeply rooted in basic country music. He’s not a Townes Van Zandt, J.J. Cale, Mickey Newbury or Guy Clark. He does walk the edges though with skill. His melodies / lyrics are easily interpreted by many singers. “See the World,” is fine as country fare but Johnny Mathis could sing this.

Track 6 — nice country shuffle, invigorating tempo. “You Want What You Can’t Have,” & “Maybe,” are both effective tracks. “Maybe” with its excellent production is mindful of singer-songwriter Michael Dinner (“Apple Annie,” “Pale Fire”). That’s what this LP exemplifies – but, at the same time there’s a little touch of the late Nashville singer-songwriter Russell Smith (“This Little Town”). And that’s a compliment.

Excellent vocals spill from “Make It Look So Easy,” – Drew’s attractive vocals lend itself to a potential commercial hit because this works that spell. The hooks go deep (“…I could never live without you,” is repeated, as well as, “you…make it look so easy…”). Just so many wonderful phrases to pick up on.

Drew’s vocal changes on “You Never Leave My Heart,” — a basic title but the deep piano that helps to layout the poignancy of the lyric keeps this well-arranged tune anchored with tight sounds — almost in a Tom Petty groove with a pinch of Randy Newman. Drew skims the rim of Tim Buckley too. By the end, Drew goes into a great Peter Himmelman vocal crescendo. Peter’s “Only You Can Walk Away” would segue excellently into Drew’s song.

Finally, “Bittersweet,” — Harry Nilsson era-melancholy. A grand piano would’ve been more dramatic than the electric keyboard. The words & vocals are warm, keep it that way. The instrumentation is too antiseptically electronic. The song & Drew’s voice deserves better. It’s strong, well-written & has drama. Yes, this is Nilsson inspired in my ears (“All I Think About Is You,” “Something True,”).

The 10-track, 35-minute CD: Produced & engineered by Cason Cooley. The LP features Drew’s wife Ellie, singer-songwriter, Lori McKenna, Natalie Hemby & The LoneBellow.

Available at Drew’s website:

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