Homemade roots brew
Reviewed March 2009
Dirt Don't Hurt
By Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
“Dirt Don't Hurt," the new release from Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, is a mixed bag of country folk, Americana, rural blues and even raucous acoustic neopunk music.
The British singer (whose birth name is reportedly Holly Golightly Smith) originally made her mark in a cult garage band, but here is immersed in a stew of Appalachian and Deep South influences, and the 14-track recording has a homemade quality; the lo-fi effect likely partially the result of it being recorded in five days in an analog studio in Spain in mid-tour (the band's 2007 release, "You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying," was recorded in four days). Adding to the homemade sound is the use of improvised percussion on what sounds like tin cans and pans, and spare use of drums.
The Brokeoffs are one-man band "Lawyer" Dave (Drake), who is credited with "guitar, singing, percussion and things with strings." In live performances, he plays a drum kit fitted with foot pedals and a guitar with both hands while singing, and on this disc he shows a mastery of blues and country forms. Playing Dobro and acoustic and electric slide guitar, he also provides solid support on bass while providing the beat on many songs with crash cymbal and tambourine, or even full drums.
His deep voice is a good match for Golightly's on the opener, "The Bottom Below," the dark "Burn Your Fun," the traditional "Cluck Old Hen" and especially on the fast country blues, "My 45," the first single from the album. His solo vocal on "Cora" recalls Leadbelly with excellent guitar to match.
Golightly takes center mc on several tunes, including "Up Off the Floor," a country waltz that sounds positively lush with harmonies and pedal steel. Her banjo work and bright vocal picks up pace on "Accuse Me," while her darker-toned vocals on "Indeed You Do" and "For All This" draw points for lyrical content but don't work as well. "Boat's Up the River" clicks with a haunting, buried vocal duet soaked in reverb that fits the atmosphere of the tune perfectly. "Gettin' High For Jesus" is a brisk rave-up that creates a memorable lyrical impression and is plenty of fun, and makes good use of drums and harmonica. The most memorable tune here is likely the closer "I Wanna Hug Ya, Kiss Ya, Squeeze Ya." On this tune, the principals trade verses and join for rousing choruses over Dave's stinging electric slide guitar.
"Dirt Don't Hurt" is not going to win any awards for slick production, but that is by design. The occasional murk in the mix, echoes and clanging sounds meld into a charming mix of rural American music played and sung by an unlikely, talented pair.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.