Rootsy, rollicking, raucous, rock ’n’ rollin ‘n’ recommended. Todd Mack is an Atlanta native, now living in Massachusetts, who has been making music for nigh on a quarter of a century, both solo and in bands like the Griswolds. “Yonder the Big Blue Holler” is his fifth solo album, and his first for eight years. To which one can only say: it was worth waiting for, and when’s the next one due? Opener “Already Gone and Only Halfway There” tears into the listener like a honkytonkyin’ hayride, as does the traditional “Five Nights Drunk”, which also boasts “O Brother” class harmonies. “Devil Outta Me” funks its way over you in alligator boots, with plenty of Southern soul and Muscle Shoals-esque horns, and that’s followed by “How high the Corn”, a beautifully delicate instrumental featuring Beth Heidelberg on superlative tin whistle, and then “Take You Home”, where Mack brings it all back home in a sweetly swinging style. Twenty-five musicians play across the ten tracks, which normally smacks of too many cooks, but here it’s all blended to perfection by Mack’s sure-handed production work. A perfect example is Tony Gubelman’s sole contribution, 15 seconds of accordion at the start of the poignant wish that is “Hand in Hand”, but it defines the tone for the rest of the song. Elsewhere there’s a cover of the Wilbury’s “Poor House” in a rollicking boom chicka boom style, and finally “Beautiful Angel”, a gut-wrenching and passionate, but never overwrought, tribute to Daniel Pearl, Mack’s journalist friend and sometime bandmate, who was murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. A portion of the proceeds of this album will go to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, set up in his memory, so if you buy it you get a great record and do a good deed at the same time, and you can’t say fairer than that.
Date review added: Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Reviewer: Jeremy Searle
Reviewers Rating: 8 out of 10