LEONARD HOLLIFIELD, A GENTLE SOUTHERN WIND
Regal Media Group
Calling the faster songs here “hard-driving” would be something of a misnomer. Calling the slower songs here “intense” would also be a stretch. The fastest songs—the swinging “I Saw Your Face In The Moon,” and “My Window Faces The South”—move along at a modest clip, but Leonard Hollifield delivers the lead vocals in an offhand manner that makes them more playful rather than forceful. The slower songs on the other hand, such as his version of “The Convict And The Rose,” rarely if ever exhibit much pleading or angst. What is found here would best be described as flowing, relaxed, fun, tuneful, and an absolute pleasure to hear. In short, just what the album’s title implies.
Hollifield, of western North Carolina and a veteran of many bands including The Kingsmen and the Stoney Creek Boys, was 88 when he made this recording, and his voice is still beautiful and expressive. His tone has settled into a smooth, light midrange and, as mentioned above, his delivery is offhand, at times pulling on your sleeve, at times wistful—a term I use often, but never more so than here. Hear him on “I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal,” or Leroy Drumm and Pete Goble’s memory song, “Back In Hancock County,” or on the faster songs already mentioned. Any of those showcase his good-natured approach. For his skill at laying on the wistful and longing, listen to his version of “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You,” or “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On,” or Drumm and Goble’s “Dixie In My Eye.” And for power without browbeating, don’t miss “Let The Lower Lights Be Burning.”
Backing his rhythm guitar and lead singing are his son on guitar, Bryan Sutton on guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, and harmony vocals, along with fiddler Bobby Hicks. The arrangements are often spare and direct, but never lack for tunefulness or interest. There is not a track in the bunch that doesn’t bear repeated listening. (Regal Media Group, 129 Regal Knolls Dr., Mills River, NC 28759, www.regalmedia.net.)BW