Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cranford Hollow - Color/Sound/Renew/Revive (2017)

Written by Alonzo Evans, posted by blog admin

Cranford Hollow’s journey through the modern music world has been shaped by their willingness to grow and take chances. The band originally began life as a more traditional minded outfit, but the addition of lead guitarist and fifth member Yannie Reynecke and a gradual evolution in their songwriting process has led them evolve in ways their fans and the band themselves likely never expected when they first formed. Their latest release Color/Sound/Renew/Revive is an eight song effort that might seem, when viewing the number of tracks alone, to indicate a work of relatively modest ambition. The truth is quite different.  These tracks highlight lead singer and songwriter John Cranford’s gifts in their full flower. Five albums into their career hasn’t dimmed his creative energies a single watt. Instead, Cranford writes like a man with something to say and the facility to express it in intelligent, often poetic terms and his vocals convey those lines with an appealingly theatrical world-weariness.

For novices to the band, the opener “Songfield” makes it startlingly clear that Cranford is every bit of the songwriter described above and plays with a band capable of investing his writing with the needed musical dynamics. Reynecke, over the course of Color/Sound/Renew/Revive, shows hints of his ability to dominate the recording with the sheer force of his playing alone, but the remarkable thing is how he restrains those talents with seeming ease. Instead, their performance on “Songfield” shows Cranford Hollow is a band of musicians and writers intent on serving the song first and foremost while deferring the spotlight to their efforts as a group. There’s a much more retro spirit powering “Long Shadows”, but the band’s blues rock spirit announces itself in artful ways. The instrumental breaks and chorus are dominated by Eric Reid’s violin playing while the verses are much leaner and guided by inventive percussion. Assertive and rather circular drumming opens the track “Noise” before other instruments gradually enter the mix. John Cranford is able to temper his vocal growl somewhat here and benefits from some key secondary vocal tracks to sweeten his gruff sound. The song has a brief and hypnotic melodic hook that has a slightly eerie effect on the song’s mood.

“North” sports a bit of a social consciousness, but Cranford is fortunately not a writer who picks up the soapbox and spews dogma. There’s an intensely personal quality touching his writing missing from songwriters addressing our time in much more strident ways. His phrasing is very effective as well; there’s something rousing about the way he treats the singing, but there’s a shadow of the melancholy seeping into the song. “Dark Turns” is a surprising instrumental this late on the release and encompasses a wide variety of musical turns, particularly near the end. The song certainly has a downcast air, but the tempo belies that and fiddle player Eric Reid glides and weaves through the arrangement with remarkable self-assurance. There’s a small amount of atmospherics woven into the fabric of the album’s finale “Swing”, but the tune has a definite shape thanks to some more strong, uniform drumming throughout much of the performance. Cranford Hollow has the rare versatility of invoking an array of moods without ever sounding incongruous. This is a result of their immense talents, but also a sense of identity – Color/Sound/Renew/Revive is the product of a band who knows exactly who they are, where they came from, and where they’re going.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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