‘Hollow Chest’ – #15 on The Examiner’s Best of 2012

2 Jan

by Chris Martin for The Examiner

If you have checked in on my columns from time to time then you know I really dig Some Dark Holler’s (SDH) music. They write about what they know, their personal experiences or their life, which makes you seriously wonder about SDH’s past. Hollow Chest is full of music that is raw and haunting mixed with dark lyrics that weave tales about bad decisions, loss, and death painting a grim picture about people and life in the deep south.

The album starts off with Chris Porter’s growl on the opening track “Bar Tabs” as he wails about loss and forlorn. It is a sparse tune that picks up steam and becomes more ominous as it progresses. It sets the stage for what is to come. Helen Gassenheimer and Porter’s voices create the perfect contrast on the tunes “Hollow Chest” and “Cry For Me” as they sing of death, lost love and bad decisions. Alcohol and drugs can go hand in hand with the subject matter of SDH’s music and they find a home in the songs “Sweet Red Wine” and “Pills and Kerosene” which praise the use of alcohol to dull the pain and drugs as a means to support the family. There are two tracks that showcase their songwriting skills better than anything else on the record. One is “Abigail” which looks at death from the mourner’s point of view as they dwell over a lost loved one and it being impossible to get past the fact she is gone. The other is “Owl Creek Bridge” which may be the best song SDH has written. It too deals with death but from the view point of the person that is dying and what he thinks of as the life is choked out of his body. Hollow Chest ends much like it begins with a sparse acoustic tune showcasing Porter’s vocals. On “Chords Are Always The Same” he sings about a guitar as if it were a lover and no matter how bad he treats said guitar it is always reliable and always loyal and always there for him, a fitting end to an album full of Porter’s acoustic guitar playing.

Some Dark Holler once again delivers a batch of songs that is about substance rather than style. They focus on the written word as Hollow Chest delivers deep music that makes you think about what you are listening to. While they write songs about the dark side of life they are not depressing or evil they are entertaining stories brought to life with music for us to ingest and enjoy.

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-31-days-of-music-best-of-2012-number-15

 

“‘Hollow Chest’ is raw, gritty, authentic, dark, and haunting — all qualities I want in an album.”

5 Dec

Common Folk Music Reviews ‘Hollow Chest’

December 2, 2012

Hollow Chest is raw, gritty, authentic, dark, and haunting — all qualities I want in an album.

By the sound of Some Dark Holler’s debut full-length album, Hollow Chest, this group has been in one a time or two. They managed to capture the lonely, mournful, and bleak atmosphere of a dark holler and bottled it up in a song like a moonshiner bottles up white lighting in a mason jar. And, what I find interesting is, there’s an Appalachian essence to the entire album, but knowing what I do know about the band (which is very little), they’re not from the Mountain South — just the South. Though  it doesn’t quite matter, because both the South and the mountain characteristics tend to spill over and merge, and due to emigration, Appalachia is everywhere.  Anyway, back to Hollow Chest… From Chris Porter’s husky, Southern drawl, to Helen Gassenheimer’s  willowy fiddle, to the love and God forsaken songwriting, this album is terrifically genuine, dark, and ancient with a modernity that make the songs relatable.

Hollow Chest is an album I have immersed myself in. In a strange way, this album is comforting to me. It starts with a lonesome, dark, distant harmonica in “Bar Tabs,” and, then turns the focus on the contrasting and complimentary vocals of Chris and Helen (not to mention, they use my favorite folk song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”) in “Cry For Me.” While “Sweet Red Wine” has the ramshackle, foot-stomping, and hand-clapping feel of an impromptu front porch performance while Helen shines with a sweetly grievous voice that perfectly fits “Hollow Chest.” The ominous sound and sinister story of the incendiary “Pills and Kerosene” is the album’s clincher and standout, but it’s “Cottonmouth” that ranks as my favorite. It’s a tune about things that remind me of a story you would find in the mountains of WV — Pentecostal chruch, snake handling, coal miners, and adultery. It’s dark, brooding, and exrememly unsettling, and I love it.

To end this, Some Dark Holler has put out a solid album that is representative of the South and the Mountain South. Hollow Chest is raw, gritty, authentic, dark, and haunting — all qualities I want in an album.

http://commonfolkmusic.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/some-dark-holler-hollow-chest/

Nine Bullets Reviews ‘Hollow Chest’

31 Oct

Some Dark Holler sounds exactly like what you think they would sound like with a name like that.  But I could be wrong because I’ve never seen a light holler.  On “Bar Tabs”, the opening cut, the harmonica sounds like it bounces off at least two hillsides before reaching the rest of the band and on the next song, “Cry For Me” the fiddle sounds like it’s traced the steps of the harmonica.  Maybe that’s where the longing in the sound comes from, but I could be wrong.

Hollow Chest is a mood record, yet the songwriting is as strong as anything in this old-timey band genre.  What’s refreshing here is that the songs feel ancient but the subjects aren’t dated.  One thing that irritates me is an album filled with first person narratives of the struggles of life 200 years ago.  The artist can share the world of another but it’s always better when it feels like they’re working through their own life.  And the accents aren’t jacked to sound more ‘something’ either.

And after the distance of the first two cuts “Sweet Red Wine” sounds like it’s in your living room, the floor squeaking and shuffling with each foot stomp.  Some Dark Holler have summoned the music from across the hills, down the erosion wrecked roads, and brought it next to the fire place.  Like the news of a neighbor’s pain.

One of the downfalls of such a mood record is that one song to the next can begin to blend.  This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but what happens to me when I listen is that somewhere halfway through this 12 song/47 minute album I drift into dwelling on my own problems instead of fully listening to the ones here.  I don’t live anywhere that I’ll have to deal with costume kids ringing my doorbell looking for candy but if I did Hollow Chest might be the record I left playing on a loop to scare them a bit.  The echoes on this record follow the water downhill, collecting the stories of those it passes, and reminding all who hear them it isn’t always sunshine and pain free.

http://ninebullets.net/archives/some-dark-holler-hollow-chest

SDH Releases ‘Hollow Chest’!

21 Aug

August 21, 2012

Following up their well received debut EP, Birmingham, AL’s Some Dark Holler release their first full length album, Hollow Chest on August 20, 2012 with This is American Music. Combining equal parts Steve Earle, the Civil Wars (if they were drunk), and Breaking Bad, bandleader Chris Porter (Back Row Baptists) and fiddler Helen Gassenheimer bring a mix of vocal and instrumental stylings that are as flawlessly harmonious as they are dark and haunting. Hollow Chest explores and exposes the South’s gritty underbelly and its rawest nerves. Each tale is made all the more personal by the Porter’s dry, gravelly snarl– a voice perfect for his broken characters who would seem all but damned if not for the angelic redemption found in Gassenheimer’s harmonies. Straightforward, uncomplicated, and unpolished, these songs resonate like the old Appalachian ballads from which they are clearly inspired. Their simple potency is highlighted by the understated production skills of Jody Nelson (Through the Sparks). Fans of acoustic music and vocal chemistry will find Hollow Chest remarkable both for the prowess of its players and the dark beauty of its songwriting.

Available here: http://thisisamericanmusic.com/product.php?id_product=56 

Some Dark Holler is:

Chris Porter – vocals, guitar, dobro

Eric Ominus – bass, vocals

Helen Gassenheimer – fiddle, vocals

 Guests on Hollow Chest:

Jason Taylor – Back Row Baptists

Jody Nelson – Through The Sparks

El Ron Dorado – Solo TIAM artist / Astronaut

Shawn Avery – Through The Sparks

Greg Slamen – Through The Sparks

Van Hollingsworth – Magic Math

Nick Recio – Magic Math

Hannah Gassenheimer

Jason Bailey

Album Review: Some Dark Holler

20 Aug

The Music Moms - Music Reviews & News For the Busy Parent

Posted by  on Aug 20, 2012 in Country & FolkMusicMusic Reviews | 0 comments

Some Dark Holler Photo by: Wes Frazer

Genre: Americana

Our take: The name of this Birmingham, Alabama, duo says a lot about the tone of the album. We like to imagine these songs were written around a fire next to a moonshine still in Depression-era Appalachia. Through Helen Gassenheimer’s haunting vocals and Chris Porter’s gritty outlaw Southern drawl, Some Dark Holler transports the listener to a simpler time and place where salt of the earth folks sang about life’s hardships to purge the day’s worries. The sound of steel and fiddle set an eerie tone for the life-threatening “Owl Creek Bridge,” but Some Dark Holler uses those same instruments to make inviting sounds with foot stomps and harmonies in “Sweet Red Wine.” This album of genuine Southern “Handmade American” music is a great listen for “old souls” who swoon when a steel guitar echoes in the background of a sad and hopeful ballad (listen to “Everybody’s Devil”).

(Side note: if you like this album want more, the band hits the road quite often, and you can also check out Chris Porter’s former band The Back Row Baptists for more of his poignant and danceable songwriting.)

Verdict: Love

Nine Bullets Debuts “Hollow Chest”

17 Aug

NineBullets.net

8/17/12

In some circles it’s said that there are people all over the southeast that would follow Mr. Chris Porter into hell. I’ve never met Chris nor his bandmate Helen Gassenheimer so I can’t speak to that. I do know that Porter and Co. have no shortage of followers on Facebook and Twitter and I suppose, to some, social media is the epitome of hell. Personally, I’ve followed Chris from his previous band, The Back Row Baptist, to his new,Some Dark Holler, and I am very proud to have been approached by This Is American Music about offering up this stream. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as I do.

Stream the whole album here: http://ninebullets.net/archives/stream-some-dark-holler-hollow-chest

 

Porter Talks To BHam Rocks

14 Aug

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Dark Holler

Chris Porter introduces the debut album from Some Dark Holler, “Hollow Chest”. Chris goes through the formation of the band, making of the album, and previews the songs “Cottonmouth” and “Sweet Red Wine“. Album is available on August 20th, 2012.

Listen to the podcast here: http://bhamrocks.com/podcast.php

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