There are certain kinds of signals that rock ‘n’ roll artists can send out, whether consciously or unconsciously. In the case of New York combo Hollis Brown—who took their name from a classic early Bob Dylan track, and whose previous album was a redone version of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded—we can ascertain that the band has excellent taste, are pursuing a distinguished tradition, and also might be pretty good.
And they are.
But there is the matter of whether having good taste is enough. And while it helps, there is the case of Hollis Brown’s music.
The good news? It’s great.
With the arrival of 3 Shots, the band’s brand new album coming May 5th, Hollis Brown have taken the guts and sheer enthusiasm that marked their 2013 Ride On The Train debut and stepped up their game considerably. The production sounds less garage-y—not in a bad way, but in a more polished sense—the songs seem a tad more substantial without losing their rocking point-of-origin, and there are harmonies that weren’t around before, likely the result some new band additions. Hollis Brown now includes Mike Montali (vocals, guitar). Jonathan Bonilla (guitar), Dillon Devito (bass, vocals) and new additions Andrew Zehnal (drums) and Adam Bock (vocals)—and old-time fans will notice the difference.
There’s a variety of sound and rhythms on 3 Shots, but one of the truly unexpected turns is the presence of “Rain Dance”—a natural-sounding collaboration with the late and legendary Bo Diddley, whose guitar work drives a previously unreleased rhythm track Diddley had recorded at his own home studio. It’s excellent, a nice find, and yet another indication that when it comes to having good taste, Hollis Brown can do no wrong.
The band dropped by Brazos Hall in Austin at last month’s South By Southwest confab for an Up Close session, offered some fine playing and singing, then gave us some background on what brought them to making 3 Shots. The chat was informative and fun—and for that matter, so was their music. As you can hear, and, in fact, should.