Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs: Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

HollyGolightlyAndTheBrokeoffs_CouldaShouldaWouldaHolly Golightly and Lawyer Dave keep the flame burning

On her eighth album (in nine years!) with the Brokeoffs, and two-dozen albums into her career, Holly Golightly still sounds enthused. Hot on the heels of her throwback album, Slowtown Now, comes a new volume of the Brokeoffs lo-fi rhythm and blues. Together with Lawyer Dave, Golightly essays blues, soul, gospel, tango and waltzes, all with the rhythmic underpinnings that have become the duo’s trademark. The album’s percussion is more musical than the junkyard clang of earlier releases, and the arrangements more developed, but the performances still have the sheen of first takes. Golightly handles most of the lead vocals, though Lawyer Dave has just the right level of self-sorriness to lead “Jump in the River.”

The duo can still harmonize like an amped-up, down-and-dirty version of Richard & Mimi Farina, preaching the garage gospel of “Heaven Buy and Buy” and grinding through the blues “Little Mule.” But the duo have expanded their musical reach, and though they maintain the feel of the Brokeoffs, a few of these songs could have fit equally well on Golightly’s solo album. The title track has a good beat, is easy to dance to, and includes a terrific guitar solo from the Brokeoffs neighbor (and Guadalcanal Diary co-founder), Jeff Walls. The ballad “What He Does,” sung here as plaintive country, includes a double-tracked vocal that suggests a connection to girl groups.

The album features two covers, starting with Mr. Sunshine & His Guitar Pickers’ 1951 stringband number “Marijuana, the Devil’s Flower.” Sung here with banjo and fiddle, the performance is ready to stoke a fit of temperance. But it’s the album’s second cover, “Karate,” that could really break the band worldwide. The 1967 original (whose lyrics were rewritten by Carlos Santana for “Everybody’s Everything”) didn’t ignite a martial arts dance craze (and not for want of trying, but the honor goes to Carl Douglas’ mid-70s “Kung Fu Fighting”), but who’s to say the time isn’t ripe for a comeback? In a just world, the Brokeoffs would be siphoning off some of Psy’s 2.5 billion YouTube views with a video that features Elvis’ on-stage katas in Las Vegas.

The album’s other option for infamy is the closer, “Christmas is a Lie,” a ballad that’s readymade for misinterpretation and fundamentalist backlash, and a worthy bookend to the stinging rebuke of the opening “Heaven Buy and Buy.” Taken together, it seems unlikely the Brokeoffs will be invited by Ryan Seacrest to appear on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, though given their iconoclastic content, maybe Pitbull will step up and ask them to Miami to appear on Revolution. But even without those mainstream platforms, the Brokeoffs should expand their fan base with this album’s mix of fuller electric numbers, and their unique combination of blues, whimsy and hellfire. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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