Memphis-born Drew Holcomb is a singer-songwriter based in Nashville who, along with his band The Neighbors, released his début album ‘Washed In Blue’ back in 2005 and has been consistently delivering Americana/Country/Folk music of true quality ever since. 2013’s ‘Good Light’ saw the band receiving the strongest reviews of their career to date and two years later they return with an album which may even eclipse its’ predecessor, ‘Medicine’. Released on 27th January, the latest collection of tracks from Holcomb combine to create the ultimate feel-good album, not because it is full of upbeat, throwaway ditties but because it restores your faith in modern music and how utterly compelling it can still prove to be.
Opening track ‘American Beauty’ sets the tone perfectly with its’ gorgeous melody, deceptively simple yet captivating lyrics, and Holcomb’s expressive vocals right up in the mix. It also manages to combine the regret of mistakes made in life/love with the memories of the sheer joy during those past times, a theme throughout ‘Medicine’, skilfully preventing the album from becoming a dour listen. ‘Tightrope’ covers similar themes but is a deeper look inside a troubled soul knowing that companionship is his best chance for escape. An edgier sound along with the addition of electric guitar & delicate backing vocals from band member (and Holcomb’s wife) Ellie draw you further in.
The upbeat ‘Here We Go’ ponders of the difficulties of modern life and the importance of close friends & family to be your ‘rudders in the storm‘ and with its’ singalong chorus is a welcome dose of fun handled expertly by Holcomb and his band. The autobiographical ‘Shine Like Lightning’ depicts the tale of the journey of the band across the last ten years, Holcomb describes it as ‘an anthem for our band & our fans, that we are going to shine like lightning, critics and cynics be damned‘. Stirring words and the track more than matches them, an inspirational call to arms for hard-working musicians everywhere complete with a driving rhythm and a defiant, big chorus.
The more sedate ‘Avalanche’ finds the singer realising that he was always going to succumb to the power of the love for his partner and boasts a thrilling electric guitar solo, whilst ‘Heartbreak’ offers a view from the flip-side and the ability of a relationship crumbling to have far-reaching effects on one’s life. Both are beautiful tracks, performed by Holcomb with the perfect level of quiet passion in his vocals. ‘Heartbreak’ features some glorious steel guitar and also the standout lyric ‘there’s a thousand ways to say I love you, but there’s only one way to walk out the door‘.
‘You’ll Always Be My Girl’ proves to be one of the very finest tracks on the album, keeping things splendidly understated this tale of ultimate love benefits from Holcomb’s voice at its’ most emotional, supported by a gently strumming guitar and tender piano. The song was written by Holcomb for his wife Ellie the night before the band were set to go into the studio for the final recording for the album, thankfully inspiration struck a the perfect time and we are able to hear this beauty (which was recorded in one take).
A complete change of pace for the rousingly funky ‘Sisters Brothers’, which in its’ lyrics finds the singer accurately describing himself as an ‘eclectic, electric, hopeless romantic‘. All of those admirable qualities are on show throughout ‘Medicine’, with electric being an apt word to describe this track. ‘Last Thing We Do’ continues to set the pulse racing, rapid-fire lyrics and a suitably brash chorus all driven along by strong percussion and a cascading piano riff, cracking stuff.
Holcomb is back in reflective mood on the sparse ‘Ain’t Nobody Got It Easy’, atmospheric organ playing and a healthy dose of mournful steel guitar add to the absorbing melancholy. Performed almost as a duet with wife Ellie, ‘I’ve Got You’ with it’s uplifting whistled melody sections is a magnificent throwback of a track, unlike anything you will have heard for quite some time and all the more welcome for that fact. Final song ‘When It’s Said And Done’ is a man searching aloud for faith and embracing the uncertainties which make us strive for our own answers. The track builds from a ponderous start to provide a riveting end to the album, concluding the 45-minute journey that Holcomb and his band have taken you on.
‘Medicine’ is a compelling listen which will connect with everyone who listens to it, such is the insight of its’ themes and exploration of the moments/emotions in life which touch us all. Musically it straddles genres perfectly, Americana music infused with Country, which would seem to be inevitable given the home of the band being Nashville. Exceptionally well-written, impeccably performed and posing as many questions as it attempts to answer, a remarkable album.
(‘Medicine’ is out in the UK on 27th January and is available on iTunes UK. Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors are touring the UK & Ireland 29th January – 8th February, check website listed below for details.)