On Claire Holley’s latest Time in the Middle, the shift from YepRoc Songstress to Americana troubadour is fully realized. Holley’s 8th studio album marks perhaps her strongest release yet – a haunting conviction from the singer-songwriter going on 15 years strong. Time in the Middle depicts Holley in her true habitat, unvarnished production giving a better sense of her delicate yet unearthly wall of sound. The album’s namesake itself may allude to a sort intermediary state – the thick of Holley’s transformation in bloom.
Though the album begins with a dour approach to a sunny Bob Marley standard, the gloom quickly burns off and creates and brings forth a casually animated tone. The former YepRoc signee has lived and learned throughout her stable of releases, and to that there’s an inherent brashness that one realizes a certain number of records in. Though, for our listening pleasure, Holley has avoided a misanthropic throng of songs in lieu of nauseating cheeriness. Our ears prick up for that safe middle ground from an artist who historically hasn’t been a polarizing bastion of pleasantries or a saturnine musical pillar.
The low-key pleasantness of the album is nice enough; the instrumentation deft and minimal. There aren’t any barn-raisers to be found but that’s sure fine – give it to us neat. In fact, at times, some of the songs are so minimal that it’s hard to categorize them into our growing list of country-derivative musical vocabulary. How refreshing this is.
Time In The Middle is Holley’s best-produced album thus far. Upon repeat listens, there’s a striking similarity to the mid 70’s glam of both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s solo records. The track “Kudzu” is reminiscent of a deep cut off of Still Crazy After All These Years. “Be Still” reminds one of a Break Away tune. Holley’s voice often sounds more distant than an omniscient Paul or Art, but such a distance is necessary for the muddled through the fog songs. Remove the tawdry A.M. radio gold and behold – a most triumphant Claire Holley album.