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Holopaw | self-titled (Sub Pop)
Produced by Chicagoan omnipresence Brian Deck and fronted by Ugly Casanova member John Orth, you'll already know that whatever Florida's Holopaw stands for, it's sure to have to do with rustic folk music, Beefheart-spirited and playful left-of-everything Americana. In fact, Holopaw are among the more conventional 'folk' acts to emerge from this little clan of musicians lately, although that's not saying too much. Folk purists will snort in disgust or turn away at the mere mention of keys and programmed effects, but Orth has more genuine authenticity in his middle finger than most of his droll competitors will summon up over the span of an entire career. Singing with the timbre of a young, urging Van Morrison, he churns out these ten songs in a brief and efficient thirty minutes, exhausting every potential turn and road of his music in the process. His lyrics abuse the stereotypical conventions of Nashville country music to portray a sense of genuine sadness and wonder. The amazing Short-Wave-Hum (Stutter) urges you to "Hook your finger in a coffee cup for a tiny little anchor / Drop the needle on the record, let it drift into the black," while the stalking bass-line of Hula-la underlines the tale of the captain who "breaks into a shore-leave grin / He thought the swishing of her grass skirt sounded like whispering, sounded like 'Hush, now'." Cinders is the album's centrepiece, a stunningly beautiful track on which the dominating organ blends with Deck's always imaginative percussion and a splendidly angular horn section, producing something akin to deconstructionist alt.country imitating some long lost Otis Redding ballad, with Phil Spector toting his gun in one corner of the room ?? a heartbreakingly profound moment.

Stein Haukland
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003

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