By the sound of Some Dark Holler’s debut full-length album, Hollow Chest, this group has been in one a time or two. They managed to capture the lonely, mournful, and bleak atmosphere of a dark holler and bottled it up in a song like a moonshiner bottles up white lighting in a mason jar. And, what I find interesting is, there’s an Appalachian essence to the entire album, but knowing what I do know about the band (which is very little), they’re not from the Mountain South — just the South. Though it doesn’t quite matter, because both the South and the mountain characteristics tend to spill over and merge, and due to emigration, Appalachia is everywhere. Anyway, back to Hollow Chest… From Chris Porter’s husky, Southern drawl, to Helen Gassenheimer’s willowy fiddle, to the love and God forsaken songwriting, this album is terrifically genuine, dark, and ancient with a modernity that make the songs relatable.
Hollow Chest is an album I have immersed myself in. In a strange way, this album is comforting to me. It starts with a lonesome, dark, distant harmonica in “Bar Tabs,” and, then turns the focus on the contrasting and complimentary vocals of Chris and Helen (not to mention, they use my favorite folk song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”) in “Cry For Me.” While “Sweet Red Wine” has the ramshackle, foot-stomping, and hand-clapping feel of an impromptu front porch performance while Helen shines with a sweetly grievous voice that perfectly fits “Hollow Chest.” The ominous sound and sinister story of the incendiary “Pills and Kerosene” is the album’s clincher and standout, but it’s “Cottonmouth” that ranks as my favorite. It’s a tune about things that remind me of a story you would find in the mountains of WV — Pentecostal chruch, snake handling, coal miners, and adultery. It’s dark, brooding, and exrememly unsettling, and I love it.
To end this, Some Dark Holler has put out a solid album that is representative of the South and the Mountain South. Hollow Chest is raw, gritty, authentic, dark, and haunting — all qualities I want in an album.
Buy Hollow Chest
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“Pills and Kerosene”