Bren Holmes – Everything You Never Wanted
I always had a soft spot for raunchy Irish-Celtic music. Shane McGowan & The Pogues, The Tossers, Great Big Sea, Larry Kirwan & Black 47, the Saw Doctors, the Real McKenzie’s, the Dropkick Murphy’s & The Young Dubliners. And from the Young Dubliners comes the gritty melodic roots-rock of bassist Bren Holmes & it’s a winner.
A musician for over 30 years the Dublin-born, long-time L.A. resident provides a spirited rootsy set of 10 cuts from many genres. According to Bren these songs have no particular theme but are emotionally rich. Holmes’ originals not recorded by the Young Dubliners while Bren served a long tenure as bassist. Could’ve been the songs may not have fit the band’s repertoire. It happened in The Beatles.
Everything You Never Wanted (Bren Holmes Prod-Drops Sept 17) — Produced by Bryan Dobbs (vocals/electric guitars/mandolin/banjo/lap steel/dobro) & Bren (vocals/guitar/bass/mandolin).
For those unfamiliar with Irish-Celtic rock, its melody-driven with gusto & varied musical sounds, fraught with stories, colorful characters, drinking, carousing, womanizing, fables, the poor, & faith. Two of the best at this genre is The Pogues’ Shane McGowan, but musically Bren is much closer on his early tunes to UK singer Paul Hyde (former Payolas lead singer – “I Miss My Mind the Most,” “Hastings Street”).
“Sweet Talkin’ Angel,” “You Say,” start with fiery rhythm, mainstream gloss, vocals that are strong & likable. There’s a unifying coolness. Bren shows poignancy (“Can’t Stop Thinkin’) in his showcase. Singing with Bryan Dobbs the duo is close to a Proclaimer’s vocal sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVlwPcRgEn8
By the dazzling “No Return,” & “Ugly,” Bren’s vocal is more punk-folk. Borderline Frank Tovey when he recorded his 1991 UK-roots LP “Grand Union.” On “Ugly,” former Donnas frontwoman Brett Anderson shines as a duet partner. Exciting stuff. Musical interplay, bold & clean. The LP’s filled with good lyrics & lovely melodies.
To show diversification the slow “Love On Your Side” blends vintage guitar notes shook up in a box with Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Poco vocalizing. Memorable. What I found funny was the rearranged Abba pop song “SOS.” It sounds like a fantasy audition for The Monkees. Vocally at least, Bren would’ve nailed it. But the addition of mandolin on this song enriched the entire showcase. It’s to be admired.
On “Pieces,” it could’ve been the late Whistling Jack Smith with Shane McGowan for an energetic tune. Bren skims the rim of vocally of Shane McGowan with Dropkick Murphy’s grit in “Somewhere (Ode to Shane),” — exceptional.
Musicians: Pat D’Arcy (Uilleann pipes/Bodhran/harmonica & whistle), Tim Boland (piano/keys), Jayson Sites (bass), Rachel Grace (violin & viola), Ward Poulos (drums), Dave Raven (drums/percussion), Chris Tunney (toms), Brett Anderson, Mary Morales & Cindy Wasserman (vocals). The P-22 Choral Group on track 3 “Can’t Stop Thinkin’”).
A misstep: Inside front image would’ve been a better CD cover. The sheep face, says nothing about the fine music. The 40-minute CD: available @ https://brenholmes.hearnow.com/everything-you-never-wanted