Original version published 09/14/15 on Southern Senses
In many ways, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors’ release Medicine is a prime example of a core Southern sound heaped with a plethora of good old-fashioned folk trappings. There’s a certain Tom Petty-roots rock element to the entire affair that perfectly suits the musical stylings of the group, particularly the vocal forte of Holcomb. At the same time, Drew and the gang seem to channel a veritable smorgasbord of timeless artists without seeming like copycats, effectively blending multiple genres into the core Southern/folk style.
Without further ado, the Top Tracks:
01. “American Beauty”
As an artist, I tend to approach the first song of a record or performance as a figurative splash of cold water in the listeners’ faces—get their attention and blood pumping early. As the opener of Medicine, “American Beauty” completely shies away from that philosophy and instead draws the listener in with an Amos Lee-esque folk tune about a one of a kind girl, perfectly setting the tone of the record.
“Tightrope” continues the folk tradition established by “American Beauty,” but the musical stakes feel raised by the track’s a slow-building, epic quality. An extremely rhythmic acoustic guitar allows for a distinction to be made between this track and the other folk-based tracks on the record, as well as other similar tracks at large. The refrain “I want to go wherever you go,” though simple, is as fine of expression of love as I’ve heard.
03. “Here We Go”
“Here We Go” is a marked departure occurring surprisingly early in the record, but it nevertheless remains my favorite track of the project. “Here We Go” is very much jazz-based. It’s uptempo, grooving, catchy, and a little reminiscent of Jack Johnson, while the instrumental break channels Ray Charles piano stylings at its onset, before switching to a country/western guitar lick more akin to a late ’40s Hank Williams, Sr.
“Avalanche” returns us to the smooth folk, singer/songwriter vibe, but the track is elevated by the harmony vocals of Ellie Holcomb and a chorus that reminds me very much of the late ‘60s Beatles sound.
While “Heartbreak” is overall melancholy, it possesses a distinct, easy, Jimmy Buffett-beach feel. The bridge veers into alternative pop/rock territory and sports the wonderful inaugural line “Held you like a fire.”
07. “You’ll Always Be My Girl”
You’re a young lad in 19th-century rural America at the town dance on Saturday night, and you ask the band (who happens to be Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors) to play the prettiest waltz they know for you and your sweetheart. They play “You’ll Always Be My Girl.” This is one of my favorites from the record.
08. “Sisters Brothers”
Rounding out the Top Tracks is more jazz, but this time, it’s dark. The backing vocalists sing the titular refrain like a haunting, gospel choral arrangement, while blues and rock-infused piano and guitars arrive later in the track to cement the ominous atmosphere. The track is in many ways reminiscent of a great track called “Prisoner” by the band’s good friends NEEDTOBREATHE. “Sisters Brothers” is another of my personal favorites.
Album Rating: 4/5
Other Categories: Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Folk/Rock, Pop/Folk, Roots Rock, Americana, Pop/Rock, Alternative