Bren Holmes – Everything You Never Wanted (Acoustic)
The full-band version of this LP originally appeared in Americana Highways on Sept. 2021. This is the acoustic version. https://americanahighways.org/2021/09/16/review-bren-holmes-everything-you-never-wanted/
Holmes, a former bassist who played with the Celtic rock band The Young Dubliners for 35 years released a solo LP in Sept 2021. This issue is an acoustic set.
The Irish/L.A. resident has taken his 10 wonderful tracks & stripped them down. The majority hold up pretty well in this form. Holmes’ melodies are always catchy, energetic & this acoustic production does not dilute them.
They are still creatively arranged & keep their rootsy pop sweet, twangy blues tangy, gritty Celtic rock rambunctious. There are world-weary detours & a departure from his standard style yet it all simmers in a melodic sense of melancholy & Irish fighting spirit.
Everything You Never Wanted – Acoustic (Drops March 29–Bren Holmes Productions) keeps its pop-sensibility & commercial potential-filled to the brim on “Can’t Stop Thinkin’” with a street voices finale. There’s no particular theme though Holmes does wander into loss, heartbreak & how it affects a person over a long period.
“No Return,” finds Bren with mandolins/fiddles punctuating much the same as early Davie Cousins of Strawbs used to perform his solo material. This song has a European flavor a bit more traditional in sound to darker nations than Ireland. Bren often steps into the vocal tonality regions of the late Frank Tovey (“The Liberty Tree,” & “Bethnal Green Tube Disaster”) from his brilliant 1991 “Grand Union” LP.
“You Say,” is a foot-stomper drenched in hand-clapping & acoustic playing. Holmes isn’t Shane McGowan (The Pogues) or Larry Kirwan (Black 47) but he does have the same infectious songwriting that permeates bands like Great Big Sea, Oysterband, Spirit of the West, The Tossers & the aggressive Dropkick Murphy’s. What he does is show the songs still in their formative years before a band like those comes along & feeds it steroids.
As we listen to the whistle-drenched “Pieces,” & snappy “Somewhere (Ode to Shane)” — Brett does skid into his best Shane McGowan tone. Impressive. Theses sparkle. I love it. Pub music with class. I need a black & tan, a Toscano cigar (I’m Italian) & Bren Holmes’ music. Life is good.
Even on “Ugly”, the ballsiness remains Tovey-like vocally. Holmes & Brett Anderson wonderfully steer the song into delicious areas. “Love On Your Side (LC Blues)” is a soft-focus ballad — “…stop believing love’s on your side.” A lovely heart-wrenching lyric sung expressively.
Musicians on the acoustic set: Brett Anderson & Cindy Wasserman (vocalist), Dave Raven & Ward Poulos (drums), Rachel Grace (violin), Tim Boland (keys), & Dubliner — Pat D’Arcy on (Uilleann pipes/bodhran/whistles on “Take It All Away”).
A surprise comes with a great cover of Abba’s pop hit “SOS” that goes from their sugar-coated commercial rendition to a more mandolin-driven serious piece. Not a single bad tune on this 41-minute CD produced by Bryan Dobbs & Bren.