[Review] Claire Holley – Time in the Middle


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.

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