DARRYL HOLTER Crooked Hearts CD Review
From Country Music People Magazine, June 2012
Producer: Ben Wendel 213 Music
12 Jun 2012
Here is a huge talent. Country/Americana singer-songwriter Darryl Holter currently lives and works in L.A, but is originally from Minneapolis. Apart from music, this is the singers third release, he also writes books.
The Crooked Hearts disc finds Darryl Holter with a Grammy-nominated producer, Ben Wendel, who completely understands his music. There are eight fantastic original songs, plus five very well-chosen cover versions. The backing band are perfect, with special mention needed for steel guitar player, Greg Leisz and piano/organ player Matt Rollins. Darryl Holter is also joined on two tracks (3 and 7), by his daughter, singer Julia Shammas Holter, who releases CDs of obsessively beautiful songs.
Crooked Hearts begins with Dave Alvin’s 1998 song Mary Brown. The new version of this dark song sounds even darker and more ominous with Darryl Holter’s powerful vocal, and the wonderful steel guitar. In the 1960s Bob Dylan wrote a song called, Love Is Just A Four Letter Word. He doesn’t seem to have ever recorded it but folkie Joan Baez did, and now Darryl Holter has. Here it becomes a thoughtful country song with a short solo vocal by the singer’s daughter. The other stand-out cover version (they are all highly original), is Richard Thompson’s Walking The Long Miles Home. My ears rebel when any English folk music is heard and I detest the original version. This however, is a gigantic improvement, the track becomes pure country, with fiddle and steel guitar. Very reluctantly I have to say that Richard Thompson is a fine songwriter, pity he sings! The bell at the start of the track is a neat touch. Other cover versions are a beautiful, haunting version of Benmont Tench’s Why Dont You Quit Leaving Me Alone and country ballad I Aint Blue, which has a sensitive, understated vocal by Holter.
This disc is not only about cover versions, Darryl Holter writes songs as good as the covers. He is a storyteller, title track Crooked Hearts tells of a man and woman off to a robbery. There is a kind of desperation in the characters, which is brought out by the superb vocal. The dark romance of Take Me Away has the lyric,” delete all the promises”. A street in Paris features in Mouffetard Noir, a track that captures France and the cafe society, with smoky late night jazz clubs. This is songwriting of a very high standard, it feels like Leonard Cohen on peak form.
The final track, Midnight In Cologne combines the melody of an old jazz track from 1974, by Keith Jarrett, with new lyrics. This beautiful piano led ballad provides a perfect end to an astonishing disc, from a singer who deserves
to sell millions of discs. This album has everything, fantastic songs, great backing tracks, a producer at the top of his game, and at the centre of all this Darryl Holter, one of the very best singer-songwriters in the world right now. For this disc only eight out of a collection of 40 songs were chosen, hopefully the others, will soon be, “chosen”. Darryl Holter may be a genius.
– Paul Riley