A Very Solid Discovery; Lost Hollow at The Bedford, Balham, London
The UK’s Country to Country festival in March is usually about the big names in the main O2 arena but the nearby smaller stages are very fertile ground for discovering new bands. This year’s pick of that new spring crop was Lost Hollow whose performances on the stage right at the venue’s entrance gave such a warm welcome to the whole event.
Lost Hollow have made a swift return to the UK with a further tour, including a show at The Bedford in Balham, south London. This fine venue does a lot to promote roots music with regular evenings devoted to artists from both sides of the pond. On tonight’s bill were excellent sets from Americana/folk artist My Girl the River (Kris Wilkinson) and Jake Morrell, who may be from Norfolk (England) but he can sing as if he was Nashville born and bred.
Lost Hollow are husband and wife duo, Tommy and Lorrie Harden. As on previous UK visits they brought a contingent of their six children along. These kids don’t come just for the ride as daughter Lily demonstrated as she joined Mum and Dad to perform with the assurance of an old hand.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with Tommy and Lorrie, a more engaging couple so enthused by music it would be hard to find. When introducing them to the stage, the show’s host mentioned Tommy’s thousands of recording sessions and Lorrie’s long career as a songwriter so the obvious starter question had to be how Lost Hollow came about.
“We had always wanted to do something together musically when we moved to Nashville, but family and Tommy’s work got in the way” Lorrie explained. “At the time Tommy was in Reba McEntire’s band, touring and recording a lot. I was at home raising a family. One day I was singing around the house and one of the girls said why don’t you make a record like Poppa? And I thought, well, why not?”
It’s not as if either lacked talent or experience so what did you write when you got together? This was the early 1990s which Tommy put into context, “Nashville was all boots and hats. It certainly wasn’t us. Nashville is a tough place too, it’s a songwriter’s boot camp. The bar is set so high but you have to do it. You soon know if it what you’re doing is going to work. I’d written a lot of songs recorded by other people, Reba and Faith Hill among others (not unknown names either). I’d toured with The Gatlin Brothers, Ricky Skaggs and spent 14 years touring with Reba. Rather than worrying about fitting into a particular style we wrote songs that we felt people could relate to”.
Lost Hollow really is a team, even when replying to questions they don’t repeat each other but complement their respective responses. Lorrie would give the broad picture then Tommy comes in with the detail. Back to songwriting and Tommy, “we write songs, but we don’t fit a specific mould. If you drew a square with Americana at one corner then at the other three put folk, country and perhaps adult contemporary then Lost Hollow would go bang in the middle. Musicians take risks but when they reach success, they stick and take no more chances. We don’t want to do that.”
Ok, so let’s look at this another way. How would you want your audience to react to a Lost Hollow song? “We’d want them to cry”, said Tommy without hesitation. “At every show we’ve done this tour someone comes up to say we moved them to tears. We’ve even been asked, ‘have you been reading my mail?’! If we make you cry we’ve done our job”.
Lorrie expanded, “we write songs about real life. We’ve been around for a bit, travelled, raised a family together. Friends, relationships, and the emotions that come from all that are the raw material. Turning this into a song isn’t easy though. One day I was so frazzled, so much going on, that after having driven the kids all over the place, I just pulled over and wrote down how I felt. I took those scribbled lines to our friend and songwriter Don Rollins, who guided us into crafting such everyday, hassled mom emotions into a song”. The song is ‘Disconnected’ from their first album.
Will your determination not to fit into a particular slot hinder your chances of success, say in landing a big recording deal? “No, when people hear us it’s a done deal. This isn’t arrogance but belief. Nashville needs a big shake up anyway. It’s in laptop mode; great that anyone can access the gear to make a record but everything now gets edited to death. Stop seeking perfection, just be yourself. That’s our mantra. Come to a show and you’ll see what I mean”.
Those at The Bedford did see what he meant. There is nothing manufactured about the show from the warmth of Lost Hollow’s greeting, their obvious pleasure from what they are doing and its impact on the audience. The result is their connection with a new bunch of converts.
Opening song, and title track of their recently released EP, ‘When I Get Home’ is a perfect example of Lost Hollow doing what feels best for them. As Tommy explained, “I’d never play in the key of A, but this time I put a hook in the verse. It might not be technically correct but it sounded right. You could call this country, the Lost Hollow way”. With a song about the joy of returning from a long trip away Lost Hollow got their set off to a rousing start.
They switched back and forth from the EP to their eponymously named full album of three years ago. ‘Drifiting’ moves along at a brisk pace, Tommy and daughter Lily played to give full ambit to Lorrie’s soaring voice. Then it was Tommy’s turn. Here we see again how perfectly these two voices work together. Usually the male voice commands the lower range but here that is reversed. He described his wife’s vocal range as “insane”. I know what he means now.
‘We Both Lose’ pulls at the heartstrings. As the title suggests, it’s a sad song; “it’s a shame what we’ve become, now even in time there’s no win for me or you, we both lose”. The harmonies underscore the sadness of breaking up but the lyric has more than a practical element.
Also from the EP came ‘Falling’. Tommy opened then Lorrie harmonised into the intricate web of love they have for each other. This is the sort of song that defies categorisation, a powerful way to communicate emotion, who cares about labels?
Lost Hollow are working on a new album. They did two of the songs earmarked for the record, ‘Landslide’ and ‘We’ve Got it All’. Both bear the carefully crafted mark of Lost Hollow but are “bigger” than some of the softer love songs. Tommy hoped this would be “festival friendly music”. The new songs certainly sounded like they’d fill somewhere considerably larger than tonight’s relatively intimate venue.
Lost Hollow have been described as one of music’s best kept secrets. Tommy and Lorrie are warm, sincere people with a deep love for family and what they are doing. They aren’t going to shout from the rafters but go to a show and you’ll be doing just that to anyone who will listen. UK folks can catch them at the Black Deer festival in Kent this weekend then fingers crossed, next year at C2C when hopefully they will get the larger stage that they deserve. And by the way, I had a cry too.