Jesse Dayton and Brennen Leigh apparently bonded over a shared love of George Jones & Tammy Wynette duets while waylaid from their flights to a European music festival, and parlayed that into a twelve-song album, which includes their take on George & Tammy’s “Somethin’ To Brag About”.
Holdin’ Our Own expands on Dayton’s devotion to an earlier era of modern country music; he identifies with the outlaws and had a stint playing guitar for Waylon Jennings. It marks Leigh’s first full-length plunge into electrified country, though she’s not new to duo harmony singing, having made previous albums with her brother Seth Hulbert that drew on bluegrass, blues and western swing.
It hardly needs saying that Dayton & Leigh are not Johnny & June, Conway & Loretta or Gram & Emmylou, duos they reference with “Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man,” “Back Street Affair” and “Brand New Heartache”, respectively. But they shine brightly on songs that allow space for theatricality. During “Guitar Pickin’ Man”, Dayton moves into a resonant, masculine bass, and Leigh’s retorts are bright and feisty, attacked with a hint of a growl.
There’s a tribute element, since the arrangements and feel are largely preserved from the originals, down to Dayton’s skilled note-bending and chicken-picking. But that’s not the point of the album. Most of the songs are originals; of those, the title track, a sweeping troubled-love number, is by far the best.