Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs
What’s a willfully against-the-grain stylist like Holly Golightly to do when Amy Winehouse and Duffy take one of her sources of inspiration ’60s girl groups to the mainstream? The answer given on Dirt Don’t Hurt (as well as on her 2007 disc You Can’t Buy A Gun When You’re Crying) is to leave the city and its electrified sounds behind. Or at least head out in the backyard with an extension chord.
Both releases are officially billed as Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs albums (for the record, the Brokeoffs are actually a one-man band comprised of multi-instrumentalist Lawyer Dave), and both find her knee-deep in a rural primitive mindset. Dirt Don’t Hurt, in particular, is an album with a dark sense of humor expressed via a death wish.
Golightly wagers, rightly, that sparse, ramshackle tracks are striking settings for songs about volatile, doomed love affairs. She and Dave draw on ’60s country, ’50s blues, rockabilly and Appalachian folk, roughing it up with clattering kitchen percussion and making it sound all the more dire by singing most of the melodies in unison, but an octave apart, as though they’re in a standoff.
Together, Golightly’s girlish voice and Dave’s shadowy one deadpan their way through a range of relational possibilities: threatening, leaving, shooting, breaking a limb. That a third of the songs have a boozy, morose feeling extends the notion, though some are so slack that they almost lose the pulse altogether. But when it works like it does during “My 45”, a sinister, pistol-packing cousin to Johnny and June’s playfully quarrelsome duet “Jackson” it really works.