Itâ€™s been just about twenty years since Peter Holsapple stepped up front to lead a solo effort. After achieving reknowned with the dBâ€™s, he served as a sideman for R.E.M., joined the Continental Drifters, reunited with Chris Stamey for the albums Mavericks and Here and Now, and with the dBâ€™s for Falling Off the Sky. In 1997 he released the solo album Out of My Way, but it would be two more decades until he was once again ready to put his name above the title without any company. He dipped his solo toes in the water with the 2017 single â€œDonâ€™t Mention the Warâ€, which is included here with its flip (â€œCinderella Styleâ€), a cover of Buddy Milesâ€™ â€œThem Changesâ€ and thirteen new solo tracks. Really, really solo, as Holsapple writes, sings and performs nearly everything on the album.
Now in his early â€˜60s, Holsappleâ€™s lyrical view has grown into middle age, but his voice remains instantly recognizable. He opens the album in the present with the title songâ€™s pragmatic view of aging, but transitions into nostalgia with the thirty-years-late thank you of â€œCommonplace.â€ He remembers his time with and laments the end of the Continental Drifters in an eponymous song, and wanders through memories as he deconstructs the intimate details of his parentsâ€™ home in â€œInventory.â€ Mortality provides a prism for looking backward in â€œDonâ€™t Ever Leave,â€ contemplating the musical friends no longer extant, and illuminating the motivation he discussed in a recent interview: “I think about friends who’ve passed away whom I would love to hear records by today, and I won’t be able to do that, so I feel a little bit of compunction simply by being on this side of the sod.”
Though rock guitars dominate many of the productions, Holsapple digs into electric blues, psych, country-rock, and mournful organ and electric piano. His cover of â€œThem Changesâ€ combines a heavy central riff, funky keyboard sounds, a few production tweaks and a punchy, heavily processed guitar solo. The set closes with Holsappleâ€™s 2017 single, â€œDonâ€™t Mention the War,â€ essaying a nephewâ€™s disheartened view of his favorite uncleâ€™s PTSD-fueled demons, and his memories of the man that once was. The flip side, â€œCinderella Style,â€ is an imaginative peek into the creative process of a seamstress, as Holsapple spies the fairy tale fabric compositions of a sewing room. The latter provides a gentle exit from the turmoil of the A-side, and a lovely close to this welcome return. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]