Album Review: Hollis Brown – Three Shots – A fresh take on classic rock

Hollis Brown is the kind of rock band that shows versatility reminiscent of Eagles. They have great harmonies, solid songwriting, and a style that is frankly really easy to listen to. They are a rock band for folks who enjoy sitting back to take in the tunes, not necessarily head banging or aggressively participating in the music.

“Cathedrals,” the opener, has some great layered imagery about sacredness and sacrifice. It’s the kind of song that, if you listen closely, will have you pondering deeper questions than the initial sound might indicate. It’s a nice pace setting track for an overall chill rock album.

The title track “Three Shots” really reminds me of Fleetwood Mac. It’s got that guitar and key combo going in a nice chill vibe. The drums are no joke on this track, too, keeping a driving rhythm that is engaging while still relaxed. It seems to be a song about celebrity or success of some kind, speaking of an undefined “they” naming or choosing someone. Then again, it could be about – you know – three shots, that is to say getting shot. I don’t know the story behind the track, but the vintage feel and whistle section on this track really, really reminds me of the Spring Standards.

The third track is a seven minute opus called “John Wayne.” It has a delightfully “western” feel to it, along with a gently understated acoustic guitar. It’s clearly not about the famous actor, but the story remains pretty vague in the song. But when the electric guitars and full sound come in (spoiler?) the track takes on a totally different rock vibe, much more befitting the band and album. And man do those guitars have some distortion on this track! Rock your heart out, guys.

“Rain Dance” really sounds like it’s straight out of the seventies. The vocals, the vibe, the whole sound is just quintessential classic rock. The bluesy guitar riffs put me in mind of Guns n’ Roses, ACDC, and even a little Led Zeppelin. It’s apparent the guys in Hollis Brown know their classic forbears. Great sound! The lyrics are rallying, encouraging listeners to “get it together.” It really does have the rhythmic quality of a community dance. Cool track.

“Sandy” comes out with a punch, reminding me of something Elton John may have done (even with some nice underlying keys and backing strings). It’s clearly patterned after the greatest of pop rock flavors, including a romantic ethos. “Sweet Tooth” has a bit more of a rambling or driving song flair to it. More Boss than Piano Man, but still soundly in that pop rock category. “Waiting… just to get by.” It’s an endurance anthem and it’s really catchy.

“Death of an Actress” is wonderfully in a totally unique way. It’s got an intimacy to it that isn’t really present on the rest of the album. With keys and backing band, it all pulls together nicely. “You were my star…” expresses the tragedy of loss. It’s full of heart in the way that a track like “Wonderful Tonight” by Clapton really pulls on the heart strings. Then “Highway One” gets things rambling again, with a bit more of a “pool hall and cheap beer” feeling to it. The hopeful lyric “you deserve it all” has a nice, almost communal sense to it.

“Mi Amor” uses a great Flamenco-inspired guitar style to accentuate the partial Spanish lyrics. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s a really great track. It feels romantic and sweet, especially with the grand feeling on the layered acoustic guitars. “Wait for Me Virginia” sounds really, really familiar. It’s that rock song. You know the one… the one that makes you feel things. “To my woman and my son Riker’s Island ain’t no fun.” See, that’s why it has so many deep seated feelings! It’s written from a deep, existential place. And the guitars are just so filthy good on this track it’s almost hard to believe. It reminds me of how I feel when I listen to songs written for truckers about the open road; even though I have never had that experience, I can somehow bridge the divide and connect with the heart of the thing. This track does that really well, crying out for familial love in the midst of a difficult circumstance.

“The Ballad of Mr. Rose” legitimately could have come right out of a Lynyrd Skynyrd album. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they patterned it after the “Ballad of Curtis Lowe.” It’s a great tune that tells a story and has those quintessential classic rock vocal harmonies. It’s one of my favorites on an album that’s just great from start to finish. The guitar breaks are really good; they’re the kind of thing that stop you in your tracks and make you play air guitar. **plays it now, making my rockstar face and singing neener nee nee neener…**

This is a great indie rock album that should be getting major air play. Hollis Brown is an extremely talented group of musicians and songwriters. One of the great things about good music is that it’s just as much about keeping something beautiful alive as it is creating something new. And Hollis Brown have done a great job of connecting great music from 40 years ago to the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the band today. It keeps the sounds of classic rock fresh and exciting. Do enjoy!

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