Old-time Offers New Start for the Holland Brothers
Ben’s Tune-up does not normally come up in listings for music venues in Asheville, NC. The venue, however, which serves burgers to noodles, is an excellent spot for musicians looking to perform in a large, open-air setting with a large, built-in crowd. Identical twin Holland Brothers, Mark and Michael, are here for a two-night stand. They have settled into the built-in stage for a two-hour set. The set will consist of originals and covers of blues, country and folk. As I listen, I can’t tell the two apart. Originals from covers, that is.
Singing close harmony that immediately brings to mind the Everly Brothers, these brothers operate as you would expect twins to: they are seamless in their presentation and their precision draws the crowd in. Supporting their singing with a solid acoustic foundation (Michael expertly finger-picking an old Harmony 12-string that Guitar Gabriel used to play, while Mark covers rhythm on a Guild 6-string), Mark handles the melodies on a racked and sometimes not-racked harmonica. The music is upbeat and solid and the crowd responds with greater applause after each number.
It was not so long ago that the Hollands were on a major label, Elektra, playing rock and roll. Their band was Jennyanykind and it went as far as it should have, ending in 2003. For the next 11 years, the twins did not get along due to their failure. Family men, they decided they would rather raise their children while at home, eschewing second chances that came and went for a life other than that of a full-time musician. In fact, they didn’t play together for another decade. Then things changed.
It didn’t happen overnight, but an understanding was made last year at a tiny beer garden in Fearrington Village, outside of Pittsboro, NC. The two, playing on a whim and expecting nothing, began to feel that the timing was right again for them to get more active. Setting their sights on playing the Eastern seaboard, the Holland Bros (as they are billed) have performed nearly 100 shows this past year. They have released one disc on their own label (Euramerican Soul) called Dueling Devils. It shows them in early form, contributing on each other’s songs but without the harmonies and teamwork that distinguish their current live act. A second album is in the works to capture their act, and is due to be recorded in January with Rick Miller from Southern Culture on the Skids.
“Regardless of what happens with our music,” Mark says, “at least it feels like we are brothers again. That’s all that matters.”
For the Holland brothers, it is simply a family matter.