Float Back to You
The expectations for this debut release from Holy Hive and their self-described “folk soul” were rather high following a string of live shows, singles, and their Harping EP. It’s fair to say the trio delivered on them as well with their retro mashup of folk and ‘60s soul. It’s, as the title indicates, music that just seems to float at a very relaxed pace. When you hear the instrumental opening to “Hypnosis,” for example, you’re reminded of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” That fades quickly as these vocals are quite different with lead singer Paul Spring singing in a high falsetto.
The band was formed by drummer Homer Steinweiss (Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Amy Winehouse) and singer/songwriter Paul Spring (for whom Steinweiss has produced) as they recruited their regular rehearsal mate Joe Harrison on bass to round out the core band. This is not a trio affair though as guests arrive in droves to build layers of sound, to the extent that in the latter part of the album, you’d swear Brian Wilson was in the house with the wall of sound and high harmonies, i.e. “Didn’t You Say” and “Embers to Ash.”
These are originals except for a cover of “Be Thou By My Side” (performed beautifully and essentially solo by Spring as the true folk song on the record) from the 60s UK pop group Honeybus and a re-working of the Irish folk tune “Red Is the Rose.” Steinweiss produces. The opener, “Broom,” sets the stage as Spring’s falsetto voice rings clear around the easy-rolling downbeat groove before horns come into color the track. Steinweiss percussion and slapping snare lead the way on originals “Hypnosis” and “Blue Light” while piano enters the mix on the retro soul of “Cynthia’s Celebration” as the band drifts into their serene sound.
The talented guest list features Leon Michels on sax for “Broom” and on keys and vibes in several other spots, retruing to sax on “You Will Always Be By Side Forever.” Mary Lattimore begins “Oh I Miss Her So” with harp strings and Dave Guy’s (The Roots) trumpet solo impresses, making this a standout track. In fact, the presence or horns seems like a given with this group’s sound. It’s difficult to imagine the trio carrying off hardly any of these tracks without the additional support as evidenced by Roy Mason’s trombone in the title track and “Didn’t You Say” as two examples. And, Michael Leonhart’s trumpet and flugelhorn imbue “Embers to Ash” and his trumpet colors “Red Is the Rose.” The aptly named closer, “Sophia’s Part,” features Spring’s wife, Sophia Heymans, on piano.
The unlikely pairing of Minnesota folk artist Spring and NYC soul man Steinweiss results in the unusual pairing of folk and soul. It a deeper album than it may seem like upon first listen, as you’re taking in a rather unique sound. This writer had no clue about the lyrics first time around. So, delve into these relaxing, at times transportive sounds, and give it a few listens. It will grow on you.
- Jim Hynes