Sounding like the love child of Hank Williams and Lana Del Rey, Golden Eagle from Holly Macve is a distinctive debut from a promising young talent.
The opening songs White Bridge and The Corner of My Mind are slow and sparse and it can take a few listens to grow comfortable with the atmosphere they create. Holly’s voice seems to almost fight against itself at times, creating a downbeat sound that reflects the somber lyrics. There are strained yodels and sometimes she sounds a little flat but it’s a deliberate choice. Miserable is just how you feel sometimes.
Heartbreak Blues’ vintage country sound is rich and her voice begins to warm up a little. There is a bruised melancholy here but you want to follow her into the dark. The lyrics on ‘Shell‘ are some of the strongest on the album, summing up a relationship (but also perhaps a signal to music journalists and prospective fans too). There is such insight in a line like: why do you act like you know me so well when I don’t even know myself? Another obvious influence here is Laura Marling, who showed similar maturity at a young age, and All of its Glory has hallmarks of Marling’s sound.
The single No One Has the Answers lets her voice free a little and benefits from a change of tempo. The lyrics are a stunning meditation on the meaning of life. This is a rejection of philosophy, religion and everyone else who tries to answer life’s big questions. Such understanding of the randomness and uncertainty of life is breathtaking.
I have my doubts as to whether this album fits into the genre ‘country’ which it has been assigned, not just by journalists but also by iTunes etc. Holly is from the UK and her songs are far more dark and complex than your average three chords and the truth country song. Thankfully unlike some of these atrocious UK acts like The Shires, she has made no attempt to jump on any bandwagon or align herself with the Radio 2 definition of country (nothing more than saccharine pop sung with a fake accent and played with an acoustic guitar).
Golden Eagle is a great album with country influences but that barely even touches the shell. So just forget about narrow genre expectations – Holly Macve is soaring way, way above.