Pretty much every member of local Western swing-rock sextet the Holler Time agrees: Miles Franklin made the difference between Holler Time past and Holler Time present.
“I think me and Tex were at Rooster’s with Zach talking about Miles and we both were like … let’s get this guy in the band,” said singer-guitarist Kyle Delashaw, earning a nod of assent from drummer Tex Bosley. Zach Landreneau plays keyboards. “We got to know Miles because he was playing shows with us. He and I started writing songs together. He was a good musician, but more than that, Miles is a good guy.”
The Holler Time, which calls itself a saloon rock outfit, didn’t really congeal as a band until recently, Delashaw said.
Bosley said if the band does its job, the Holler Time will brand itself right on Saturday night during its record release show at the Labb.
“We surrounded ourselves with the right people,” he said. “People like Justin Collins [the drummer with Denton’s death-folksters Hares on the Mountain, among other acts] — JC pulled everything together and made sure that our overall sound made sense, whether we were doing that kind of train-beat song or Western shuffle.”
The Holler Time got its start with lead guitarist Chad Henderson and singer-rhythm guitar man Delashaw (who does, in fact, get mistaken for ubiquitous Denton drummer Grady Don Sandlin “all the time”) taking a stab at writing country and rockabilly with the same knife back in 2007. The project produced a home recording and an appetite to write and play more. They tried to find a pedal steel player through Denton Rock City, a now-defunct cyber bulletin board.
The band put out a seven-track record, Hard Times Against a Western Skyline, and then kept plugging away. Hard Times is truly a rough-cut record compared to the aptly named Feels Like Home. From start to finish, the new music is more assured and Delashaw’s vocals more professional. A mean harmonica is a welcome surprise on “New Orleans,” the track most likely to get skirts swirling and boots a-scooting. Even the more psychedelic, David-Lynch-does-Elvis “Queen of Hopes & Dreams” bears traces of sawdust.
Apparently, Franklin brought more than a set of sweet eyes (ladies, look into them at your own risk) to the Holler Time. The singer and guitarist matched Delashaw’s knack for a grooving rhythm with a dose of soul that was noticeably absent on Hard Times Against a Western Skyline. Something about Franklin’s songwriting — both poetry and music — gives Holler Time more depth than it had before.
Take “Faith & Grease,” a song about challenging someone who knows you like you know yourself. Holler Time has crafted a blazing blues-rocker that shows Landreneau’s artistry. The keys are a treble counterpoint to the buzzsaw guitar riffs, and the vocals go whole hog. (Neither Delashaw nor Franklin have the fearless sort of edge in their vocals that can make up for the occasion “pitchiness” of well-known non-singers like Neil Young, Bono or even Denton’s Ryan Thomas Becker when he’s taking a match to “When Hammer Meets Stone” in RTB2. So when either gets lost in the story of the music, each man’s voice is better for it.)
But the band pivots and goes hellbent for Texas swing in “Whiskey Trigger,” with a mean pedal steel boogying and shimmying along with some Doors-esque keyboards. This Holler Time has — how do the kids put it? — swagger. With new confidence, Holler Time can move from blues-rock to swing to rockabilly with the authority of a born-and-bred Texan.
Bassist Wally Campbell puts it like this: “It was written as a unit, as opposed to it being a collection of songs that we threw together,” he said. “Everything that we did on this record was made by all of us, together, and I think it shows.”
Lead guitarist Chad Henderson said the band has been able to do the more stripped-down singer-songwriter songs without losing the layers that build up other songs.
“The diversity of songs on the record is pretty impressive, at least to me. We’ve got the rockabilly song ‘Whiskey Trigger,’ and ‘Queen of Hopes & Dreams’ is more of a rock song,” Henderson said. “But I think all of the songs on the album work together, too.”
Franklin has written and performed as a singer-songwriter but said he benefited from the back-and-forth with Delashaw.
“There’s something to writing with another musician,” Franklin said. “We’ll sit down and just play together — sort of just jam. A lot of times, we’ll build a song around a line. Kyle or I will throw out a line, then we’ll just add on to it.”
When they got to the studio to make Feels Like Home, Bosley said the band had 15 songs. Franklin said they planned to edit the project down to 11 songs. When they got into the studio, Franklin and Delashaw had invited Henderson to write the lead lines and leaned on Bosley and Campbell to create the rhythm section parts.
“Justin was the guy who decided which 11 songs would be on it, and we were all on board with that,” Bosley said. “We trust JC’s decisions.”
The Holler Time could tour with Feels Like Home, and if KXT puts “Queen of Hopes & Dreams” in its local music rotation, no one ought to be surprised. Feels Like Home is the kind of record that can lock down a joint like Dan’s Silverleaf or get couples on the floor for real, live two-stepping at a venue like Rockin’ Rodeo.
“We’re fine with being a Texas band,” Bosley said. “We love the clubs, we love the people. It tears me up that there is a whole generation that has never set foot in Dan’s Silverleaf. A whole bunch of college kids who don’t know what they’ve got in Dan’s. Man, if we could just get some of those kids into Dan’s, I think we’ll be happy with that.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Track by track:
THE HOLLER TIME
“Feels Like Home” — If you get a peaceful, easy feeling listening to this track, it’s because the Holler Time borrowed a bit of an Eagles beat for this tune. Drummer Tex Bosley gets the song into cruise control with the tock-tock-tock, while the pedal steel warbles gently. Our narrator finds that his hometown doesn’t fit like it used to. “That old fence post isn’t where it was before,” Kyle Delashaw croons. “Just sit back and look up at the harvest moon/Yeah, a coyote cries, and it makes me think of you.” There’s more resignation than regret.
“Queen of Hopes & Dreams” — Wally Campbell’s mean, sexy bass makes this slow groove of a song, but Miles Franklin’s worn-leather vocals sure don’t hurt. The song could easily be about a bar where up-and-coming bands earn their keep before going on to reach for the stars warmed by the likes of Max Stalling, Susan Gibson and Lyle Lovett. The barstools fit your backside and your elbows find familiar grooves on the bar. Linger there too long, though, and you might miss your chance. Lead guitarist Chad Henderson urges us out the door with licks that build in urgency.
“The King” — A song about that buddy who is a happy, congenial drunk. Ain’t nobody feeling no pain, with Henderson taking a walk with the guitar. Bosley booms along on the kickdrum, Campell chuckles from behind the bass — and Delashaw is ready to take your stash money in a friendly game of pool. You won’t mind losing to him, but you’d best not challenge him to darts.
— Lucinda Breeding