Late Bloomer: Buzz Holland’s Soundtrack for a Wounded-Heart Road Trip
Buzz Holland (aka Frank Goodman) breezed into Portland, Oregon, a handful of years ago, after a couple of different careers in music, and charmed the socks off the Rose City’s roots/Americana music community.
Teaming up with partner and bassist Duck Holland, Buzz – who, in addition forming the Goodman Brothers Band with brother Billy (Jorma Kaukonen, Dave Mason) and guitar slinger Steve Kimock (Heart of Gold Band, Zero, Ratdog), before working with Mesa amplifiers – has been a fresh breath of simple, uplifting, and well-executed songwriting and performing. He has a lilt to his sonorous vocals that doesn’t draw any easy comparisons, a muscular sense of melody and lyric, and a dangerous set of guitar chops that split time between country and rock picking. His songs are familiar, strong on folk’s storytelling, and are elegant compositions of rare grace, beauty, and the ability to touch a heart.
Working with Portland engineer/producer Ron Rogers, and a Nashville team that includes producer/guitarist Thomm Jutz, upright bassist Mark Fain (Ricky Skaggs), and drummer Lynn Williams (Delbert McClinton), Buzz has crafted 11 radio-worthy nuggets in his newest self-produced CD, Late Bloomer, that ramble joyfully along America’s sunny backroads.
Holland opens with the album’s title tune, a friendly admonition for someone who arrives a little late to the self-confidence party. He edges onto the gritty shoulder of the road in “Whole Lotta Country,” that points to the depth of that genre in the heart of rock and roll. He taps the vein of a broken heart in one of the recording’s strongest cut, “Throwin’ Beer Cans at the Moon,” a two-beat that’s at once sad, sentimental, and just the right amount of silly. “She became a thirst/I could not seem to quench/Lord knows I tried.” Who among us hasn’t, hurling the occasional angry hunk of aluminum at a distant, indifferent target in a woozy late-night sky.
It would be difficult to tug a heartstring any harder than Holland’s “Broken River.” It’s a lament, to be sure, but one filled with tension, hope, and gentle release. Jutz’s languid guitar and Steve Conn’s keys build a sense of longing around Holland’s strong and patient chord structure.
The pinnacle of Holland’s vocal prowess – and perhaps this project as a whole – comes with the sweet “You Can’t Outrun the Rain,” where he moves adroitly between his delicious melody and a bell-like falsetto that rings clear and true.
Holland contributes some deft and heartfelt guitar work and song craft throughout, but enough can’t be said for Jutz’s contributions to an array of guitar sounds, perfectly punctuated fills in the air around the lyrics, and well-honed tune arranging.
With Late Bloomer, Holland has created an Americana soundtrack tailor-made for a wounded-heart road trip, where discovery comes at every turn. Turn it up and drive until you feel better.