Arizona-based singer-songwriter Chris Holiman impresses on his sophomore disc, The Sailor’s Daughter. Twelve acoustic driven tracks, Holiman’s laid-back singing style combined with pedal steel, string and accordion accompaniment only further the impact of this alt-country release.
Holiman kicks things off with “Ride Through Sky.” With a haunting musical introduction combined with light guitar strums, string accompaniment and Holiman’s deep vocals, The Sailor’s Daughter begins on a strong note. Seemingly remembering his past, he recalls old photographs rather bitter sweetly as his profound singing style indicates there is much more to the tale than we hear. Assistance from additional musicians, Joey Burns on cello and Tom Larkins’ Indian inspired drums only add to this track. “Dark Night Tonight” follows suit with a heart-pounding drumbeat throughout. Holiman’s soaring vocals and slowed singing style continue to intrigue the listener while additional guitar parts flush out the remainder of the track.
While most of The Sailor’s Daughter deals with questioning and sadness, Holiman continues to peak the listener’s interest. Never quite sure what somber tale will follow, the solid music and fervent lyrics leave their mark. “Out of Her Arms” picks up the pace with upbeat musical accompaniment. Almost hopeful, Holiman seems to find his way despite lost innocence and being “out of her arms.” The title track, “The Sailor’s Daughter,” introduces pedal steel for the first time. A slower ballad, the soft pedal steel and acoustic guitar accompaniment sooth the listener while Holiman’s voice recalls Tom Petty. The airy track seemingly transports the listener from the prairie to an island with palm trees blowing in the wind. A welcomed change from his previous material, Holiman seems at ease as he “dreams of the sea so easy.”
“Two of a Kind” follows with light guitar strumming and somber vocals while “Things Fall Apart” switches gears as accordion grabs the listener’s attention right away. Despite the enjoyable introduction of the new instrument, it is the accordion that masks Holiman’s vocals on this track. Lighter accordion accompaniment or stronger singing from Holiman could have greatly helped this situation.
Holiman wrote 11 of the 12 tracks on The Sailor’s Daughter. While he covers James Taylor’s “Bartender Blues,” Holiman managed to put his own spin on the track. With fitting pedal steel, percussion and Holiman’s wavering vocals, he makes the song his own. The somber “Christmas Lights” follows with sad vocals. “It was Christmas night when I lost her,” sings an emotional Holiman. A tale fueled by loss and heartache, the listener feels the pain in every lyric sung. Standout track, “Running This World” impresses with passionate singing, upbeat guitar accompaniment and heavy hitting percussion. With a strong musical interlude and Holiman’s solid vocals, it is easy to picture him performing the track in a southern bar, grabbing each patron’s full attention.
“End of the Night” and “Silent Now” close The Sailor’s Daughter with distinct country flavor. “Go your own way and I’ll go mine/Go your own way and I’ll be just fine,” Holiman sings with sadness on “End of the Night.” Additional electric guitar and pedal steel only add to his evident heartbreak.
A solid second release for Holiman, The Sailor’s Daughter is an adequate showcase of his talent. While his songwriting and singing skills are evident throughout, midway through the LP the songs lag. With little change vocally, it’s a struggle to keep the listener’s attention on the slower ballads. However, it is on songs like “Running This World” that best demonstrate Holiman’s talent with passionate singing and upbeat music accompaniment. An impressive alt-country, folk release, the Arizona singer-songwriter proves he’s an artist to watch.
Review by Annie Reuter
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)