An Alabama Song
Photography Credits: CD cover and ‘Balcony’: Jennifer Handley Photography,
‘Mural’ and ‘Parking lot: Irwin Funes Photography
“We joke that the only time we argue is when we’re writing a song,” Holt explains.
The pair were certainly in sync when they penned the Kind of Blues opening cut “Mr. Morning Drive.” A bouncy pop-rocker with a memorable vocal hook, it’s the kind of song meant to get you moving just like the “morning drive” deejays that it honors.
A native of south Alabama currently residing in the Mobile area, Holt’s music reflects the fact that he’s soaked up all the sounds of the southland along with more typical radio fare. Kind of Blues is an amalgam of blues, country, and Southern rock, all performed soulfully. There’s no jazz on the album, but Holt has a background that includes jazz.
“I got my start in music playing trumpet in middle school and high school,” says Holt. “Once I got into high school I started playing guitar as well, and my love of performing truly blossomed from there. I played trumpet in jazz band for two years and also the first two semesters of community college. I got into (fellow trumpet player) Miles Davis around my senior year of high school. His Kind of Blue is my favorite jazz album.”
From the Creedence Clearwater Revival-recalling “The Bourgeoisie” to the ominous blues of “The End” to the sweet Southern rock of “Don’t Give Up on Me Baby,” Holt’s music has a warmth to it that comes not only from his voice but also from his use of old-school recording techniques. Holt owns his own recording studio and he recorded Kind of Blues there using analog equipment.
“It’s my preference for every album I make, whether I’m the artist or if I’m producing someone else,” says Holt. “Digital recording is great but it lacks the warmth, punch, depth, and transient response that a 2-inch tape machine and analog recording console can offer. Every major recording studio in the world still has an entire analog set up to use along with Pro Tools.”
While Holt owns his own recording studio, he has – like many of his contemporaries – responded to the siren song of the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis where he went to record as a sort of one-man-band.
Holt had about six hours booked and recorded two songs that night, on which he played all the instruments. He started with acoustic guitar and vocal tracks then added drums, then bass, then lead guitar, and Hammond B3 organ.
“Once I started the first song, Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ about halfway through the first take I was overcome with the fact that I was recording that song in Sun Studio,” he remembers. “It was an amazing feeling. I even made a short documentary-style video of the experience and added it to my website.”
The song selection on Kind of Blues is amazingly cohesive despite the fact that Holt works in different genres throughout.
“I have a deeply diverse taste in music so when I write, I struggle to force any song into a single box,” the singer says. “Of course, generally speaking, a song is a song and can be produced and/or arranged to fit a certain genre, but for me I prefer to let the song come into its own as I write it.”
One song on the album, ‘The Bourgeoisie,’ is heavily defined by the guitar lick that is repeated throughout.
“That type of lick is definitely a blues lick and so I built the song around that, adding the lyrics as I built it,” he says. “Other songs like ‘I’m Still Holdin’ On’ were written without any specific guitar riffs in mind and more centered around the content of the message, which in the end lent well to a more country feel.”
And about that “writing songs with your spouse” thing? Playful quibbles or not, it works out very nicely for the Holts.
“Jillian is a writer and musician in her own right, so I often come to her with an idea for a song, or even with a song that is almost fully fleshed out, and we’ll bounce ideas back and forth,” notes Holt. “It helps that she has access to hearing these songs from the very beginning. I play them around the house as I work on them, or I’ll play them on the piano any time I walk by it. It gives her ideas that she’ll share when I ask for them.”
After hearing Kind of Blues, fans too will be asking for more ideas.