Chris Holiman – The Sailor’s Daughter

January 01, 1970



Longtime Arizona
music watchers know Chris Holiman’s name. He’s been a mainstay of the regional
scene since the mid ‘80s, in particular notching fame as vocalist and
songwriter for Tucson’s River Roses, one of the leading lights during the
‘80s/’90s desert rock explosion that also saw the likes of the Sidewinders,
Naked Prey and Giant Sand come to prominence. Since then he’s kept active
fronting first 35 Summers and then the Downtown Saints, and now he’s released The Sailor’s Daughter, his second album
under his own name, corralling a who’s-who of Tucson talent – among them,
former bandmate Gene Ruley on electric guitar, Tom Larkins (Jonathan Richman)
on drums, Calexico’s Joey Burns on bass and cello, and producer Nick Luca on
keyboards – to assist him across 12 deftly-wrought folk- and pop-rock gems.


What’s interesting about Holiman is how remarkably
consistent he’s been, musically speaking, over the years regardless of the
setting: his gently keening vocals have always been a signature, and he’s
always relied on the twinned stringed power of acoustic guitar strums with
electric guitar painting around the edges, effectively making his songs
instantly identifiable. But whether you’re a veteran Holiman fan or a newcomer
to his music, there’s plenty here to wrap your ears around, from the spare,
nocturnal, cello-powered vibe of opening track “Ride Through Sky” and the wide-open-spaces
ambiance of “Dark Night Tonight” (which, with its searing flecks of lead
guitar, is so quintessentially “desert rock” you’d swear it was 1989 all over
again), through the sleek Americana of the title track (featuring pedal steel
ace Neil Harry) and the upbeat, Wilcoesque “Swan Song.” And trainspotters, just
for good measure there’s also a boozy, ripe-for-singalongs cover of James
Taylor’s “Bartender Blues” that finds Holiman singing in a tone that’s dead
ringer for Gram Parsons.


All in all, one of the year’s more delightful,
under-the-radar treats. You gentle readers, can rectify that “under-the-radar”
component, of course… tell the good Mr. Holiman we sent ya.


Night Tonight,” “Christmas Lights,” “Swan Song” FRED MILLS

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