In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Holland K. Smith issued three stone killer albums of blues and roots rock that somehow didn’t catch fire in a big way. His long-awaited new CD, tentatively titled Cobalt and due from EllerSoul Records later this year, ought to remedy that.
Listeners who are hip to Smith’s previous work will find the honest, effective vocals and distinctive, toneful guitar work they expect. What’s new is the stylistic range of the Texas artist’s vision. In addition to his trademark bluesy sounds, Smith dips into swinging organ jazz on the title track and takes a hip, off-kilter approach to Latin sounds on “Olhos Verdes.” And, for those who haven’t had the good fortune to follow him in club appearances, the playlist’s strong emphasis on the various shades of soul music will be as surprising as it is welcome. Smith has penned a solid suite of songs that includes vintage-style R&B ballads, doo wop, country soul, and creamy Memphis soul á la Hi Records. Strong arrangements featuring organ and horns really bring these cuts to life.
World, get ready: the gritty, beautiful Cobalt should put Holland K. Smith’s name on the lips of everyone who takes American music seriously.
Digital files for review purposes were provided by the artist.