Kind of Blues
Given the familiarity of the title, with the added ‘s,’ it is somewhat surprising that no one else has used it (at least that this writer is aware of). Adam Holt is right; there are blues influences here but it’s essentially a southern rock album from the Alabama roots singer/songwriter/guitarist. Nine are originals and there’s an unneeded cover of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” as well as the annoying radio voiceover that colors the opening “Morning Drive.” Despite those two missteps, eight of the ten are solid to excellent. Holt delivers his tunes with soulful vocals and searing guitar work, backed by a Mobile, AL rocking band – Owen Finley (bass), Greg DeLuca (drums), Donnie Sundal (keys), Lee Yankie (slide guitar). Mark Wellborn (pedal steel), and Pierre Robinson (bass). Holt plays guitars and keys with lead vocals on all tracks. The album was recorded at Holt’s studio in analog with guitar solos and backing vocals overdubbed. Many of those solos will clearly evoke the most famous southern rock band of all, the Allmans. Listen for example to those guitar lines in “I’m Still Holding On.”
Holt talks about the title as a reflection of the styles within the sound of the album – “It has a blend of blues, country, Americana, and rock and roll, tied together by contemporary blues licks. The name is also a nod to Kind of Blue the album made famous by Miles Davis, which I know very well. Trumpet was the first instrument I played, beginning in middle school, all the way through college. I listened to Kind of Blue many nights while I worked on my analog recording gear, compressors, preamps and my tape machines, which I used to make this record.” The vintage recording was very important to him , hearkening back to the heydays of the ‘70s when music seemed to mean more to more people.
The opening stance on “Morning Drive” is, in retrospect, too harsh when learning that it’s a co-write with his wife about her grandfather. It’s about his life as a radio DJ for 50 years (this writer can relate to the DJ role for 25) and retired from that role at age 90. (God bless him). You hear his voice, recorded on a vintage microphone. So, in the end, it’s an inspirational touch. As the album unfolds, we not only have interesting, guitar-driven music, but we learn that Holt is a socially conscious songwriter. He addresses the modern stereotypes of women in a few songs and condemns corporate America in “The Bourgeoisie.” “The Story Must Go On” is written from the perspective of one who lived through Jim Crow. The song enumerates victories in Civil Rights but maintains that the fight must go on.
Other clear standouts are the relationship songs “I’m Still Holdin’ On” and “The End.” The first is about those who cannot let go of certain parts of their past, especially after a break-up or divorce. Holt is an optimist who believes perseverance wins out. In “The End” the protagonist is a road warrior trying to keep his wife financially intact, knowing it’s the hard road of one gig at a time. These are all either Holt’s own experiences or those of folks he knows well. As such, he comes across sincerely both vocally and with strong guitar solos and fills.
These are Holt’s kind of blues – blending blistering guitar with strong songcraft.
- Jim Hynes