Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors – Strangers No More
This set is Drew Holcomb’s first full-length LP since 2019. For the unaccustomed ear is somewhat in the tradition of the long-standing Michael Stanley Band out of Ohio since 1974. Holcomb’s band mixes it up with inspired ballad deliveries, credible rock swipes, casual tunefulness, well-written melodies & performances.
They can border on mainstream approaches, but Holcomb, like Michael Stanley, manages to avoid sticky sweet tunes & keeps the arrangements sharp & ear-caressing. This supplement to 9 previous LPs offers 11 cuts on the Cason Cooley-produced Strangers No More (Drops June 7–Magnolia).
Drew Holcomb (acoustic guitars/vocals/stomps/claps/harmonica) lays out a pleasant landscape with each tune. His skills surface when he writes his tight lyrical stories & decorates them with appealing melodic trickery that makes a listener want to go back multiple times. Songs like “Troubles,” resonates nicely & seriously & establish a no-nonsense musical earthiness with an arresting voice.
A bit rockier in an Eric “Roscoe” Ambel alt-country integration “That’s On You, That’s On Me,” ambles on nicely & with a little more vocal bending could even approach Rocky Burnette territory (“Tired of Toein’ the Line”).
But it’s Drew’s twangy accentuated voice that’s cool & on firm ground. He’s not totally J.J. Cale or Lyle Lovett but he’s somewhere in between. The topics don’t tweak the nose like Townes van Zandt or slide into political stickiness & controversy like the late Phil Ochs – but the energy is dominant & entertaining.
That’s probably the most important facet of all this music – it entertains. Holcomb lays down country-rock grooves that are playful, fun & enthusiastic. Have you heard it before? Sure. But not enough of it. “Dance With Everybody,” is whip-snapping good with its George Strait adrenaline rush that Strait spread on thick on his two “Heartland,” tunes.
“On a Roll,” is the excellent shining example of Holcomb being passed the baton by the late Michael Stanley (“My Town,” “Working Again”). This song by Drew has a special expressive masterful style clearly inherited from MSB. And Drew confirms the possibility with “Possibility,” — equally up to the task with its Springsteen-like bluster. Drew sings with authority, confidence & a perfect balance of intensity. He’s a good vocalist who understands the dynamic.
Highlights – “Find Your People,” “Troubles,” “That’s On You, That’s On Me,” “Dance With Everybody,” “On a Roll,” “Possibility,” “Strange Feeling” & the wonderful “Free (Not Afraid To Die).”
The Neighbors — Nathan Dugger (acoustic & electric guitars/banjo/mellotron/stomps/claps/bgv/steel guitar/Wurlitzer/Bouzouki/mandolin/horn arrangement), Cason Cooley (synth bass/B3/piano/bgv/claps & stomps/celeste/Mellotron/horn arrangements/programming/textures), Ian Miller (piano/synths/stomps & claps/accordion/mellotron/Wurlitzer/bgv), Rich Brinsfield (upright bass/stomps/claps/bgv), Will Sayles (drums/percussion), Tyler Summers (sax), Vinnie Ciesielski (trumpet/fluegelhorn), Brady Parks & Sydney Macfarlane (vocals) & Ellie Holcomb (bgv).
Handsome die-cut CD 4-panel tray package with stitched lyric insert. Color images from CD courtesy of Ashtin Paige.
Enjoy our interview here: Interview: Drew Holcomb and the Icing on the Cake