Written by Scott Wigley, posted by blog admin
Cranford Hollow’s story isn’t one you often hear anymore. The days of relying on traditional models of sustaining a music career have long since ended and many acts face the unenviable task of make or break efforts their first time out and often compromise their art accordingly. If you can’t cut the proverbial mustard live in concert and build a following that way, you are unlikely to survive. South Carolina’s Cranford Hollow understands the lay of the modern landscape and have endured through countless albums despite the diminishing financial returns enjoyed by musicians of every stripe. Their ability to sustain themselves as a touring and recording unit thanks to an increasing and loyal following has enabled them, in part, to chart their own course of musical success. It has lead them to what might be their finest accomplishment yet with the latest album Color/Sound/Renew/Revive.
It’s a relatively brief collection and even sports a lone instrumental track. The latter fact is illustrive about one of the band’s key qualities. Though the lyrical invention of lead singer and guitarist John Cranford is one of their marquee strengths, Cranford Hollow is an equally adept musical unit on their own. Few songs embody that better than the aforementioned instrumental “Dark Turns” and the album’s opener “Songfield”. The artistry behind a song like this doesn’t reveal itself immediately. It does expend a great deal of effort on rendering the song’s atmospherics, but never to such an extent that its premeditation hinders the song. The subject matter of the track is open to interpretation and Cranford’s vocal phrases the lines in such a way it suggests the track has intense personal meaning for him. This might strike some readers as a bit obvious or natural, but it’s his level of engagement with the words that stands out sharpest. Few modern singers invest their writing with such attention and evocative skill.
“Long Shadows” begins with some classically styled bluegrass harmony vocals before segueing into a much more modern arrangement. Cranford Hollow’s ability to simultaneously invoke the past and wreathe it in a present-day aesthetic sets them apart from many others working in this form. There’s something here for both the purist and casual fan alike – a quality not typically in abundant supply in the current scene of Americana/traditional music. Eric Reid’s fiddle playing is a key musical force for keeping its roots honest, but the rhythm section discharges their duties here in memorable fashion and lead guitarist Yannie Reynecke brings a lot of color to the proceedings. “North” is another of the high points on on Color/Sound/Renew/Revive. This is obviously styled as an important track – an obvious hint of their ambition comes with its spoken word introduction courtesy of a John F. Kennedy speech. The obvious wide implications of the song are nicely rounded off with John Cranford’s typically personal songwriting touches. The arrangement making the finale “Swing” go is refreshingly affirmative. Many of the earlier songs, while certainly far from mired in despair, wring the listener with their intensity, but “Swing” has a patient march that’s full of airiness and sunshine in comparison. It shows off a final illustration of a band still turning over new ground well into their careers and beholden to no one or trend.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars