CD Review – The Holland Brothers “Dueling Devils”
When Mark and Michael Holland (along with bassist Thomas Royal) were playing as Jennyanykind in the early ‘90’s, they were signed to major Elektra Records on the strength of their huge, prog-rock sound. Most artists (like, for example, the Flaming Lips) would have ridden this out for years, milking a career and continuing with a sound that would guarantee the bills got paid. But, the Holland brothers are true artists. This would have bored them to tears. With no thought about the repercussions (or, maybe they thought about it, but just didn’t care), the Hollands moved, instead, towards something more roots related as this is where their interest turned to. This also, over time, killed the band. But, not without some great records being put out along the way (Revelator, Big Johns, I Need You, Peas and Collards). The band really folded in 2004, but kind of ticked along until 2012, while both Mark and Mike were busy with solo projects.
Enter Dueling Devils. Enter the Holland Brothers as a duo. Dueling Devils is the first release with both Holland’s contributing songs since 2003. It is original in concept in that both artists take a side and write 5 songs. It contrasts the lighter Piedmont blues style of Mike with the harder, Delta blues inspired works by Mark; it also is in contrast to most releases today. With the emergence of DJs, metal, and other forms of depersonalized music, the 10 tracks move like a ghost through time spanning early 20th century music into the current day. “Mountains of the Moon” is a beautiful Mike penned number about pining for a lost love. “Cold Water Blues” is a Mark original culled from the Charlie Patton handbook and is a reworked version of “Mississippi Bo Weevil Blues”. Both tracks, and the others, do present an era gone by, but the record’s strength and originality are based on the ability of all the tracks to also stay current. Clearly shown is a “reflection of days gone by” that still keeps a well-oiled heel in the present.