Darby Hollow are a self described "Americana/Dad-Country/Jam Band" hailing from Central Ohio. Their self-titled debut release features 9 songs, exploring a diversity of sounds fitting of that description.
The album's opener, "Have Mercy", kicks off by settling into a familiar bluesy barroom rhythm. Sharp stabs of harmonica serve to add an effective punctuation to the bouncy movement of the guitar and bass. The familiar and easily understood tale of a man going off the rails for a good time is repeatedly interrupted by a plea toward the singer's significant other to 'Have mercy on me!". An overdriven, rollicking harmonica really helps to pull the listener into the kind of night the narrator is having.
"Latham" finds the band very comfortable in a melancholy country ballad. The narrator reflects on a town that, while once home, is no longer a place he needs to be. The steady beating drums and sturdy acoustic guitar do a great job outlining the mournful vocal. To some degree, the lyrics feel like a eulogy for a place that is dead to the singer.
"Pills and Booze" picks up right where "Have Mercy" leaves off, lamenting love lost to long nights and hard vices. A solid, pounding drum rhythm drives the song along at a solid pace, while harmonica, guitar and bass follow along in a tight pattern. Following a couple refrains of "If it wasn't for the pills and the booze, I'd still have you", harmonica and electric guitar step out front and interplay with each other in a nice lead section.
"The Bottle" shows a strong 90's alternative influence, with a driving drum beat and a harmonica leading the way. With a chorus that soars with some tight harmonies and more harmonica accents, the song lets the band show a different side of their musical ability. The refrain of "I'm slowly drifting away from you, just like I am meant to do" is one that many people can relate to from personal experiences.
"Landlord" takes the record in a different direction. Gently picked acoustic guitar chords lead the listener into a tale of a man's struggles, from substances to dwellings. The parallels of self-abuse and the destruction of a delapidated house serve as a frame for feelings of hopelessness and isolation, as the steady acoustic guitar rhythm carries the listener along. A refrain punctuated with the line "I know I'm better off alone, when that roof caves in on this old house" delivers a recurring gutpunch and drives home the song's intent.
Overall, Darby Hollow's self titled debut is a piece that sticks close to Americana and Country roots while showing a few flashes of wide and varied influences. The songwriting, oftentimes contemplative and melancholic, relates to the everyday struggles of many people. From gentle acoustic guitar to brash and exuberant harmonica, Darby Hollow offers a bit of something for everyone. This is the kind of record that truly feels like the band is playing it in one's living room, an experience that is difficult to capture on recorded media.