REVIEW: Hollis Brown – Ride on the Train
By Michael Carlos
he New York City-based rock group Hollis Brown released their second full-length, Ride on the Train, a couple of weeks back and I was initially hesitant about writing a review. It’s not that the record isn’t excellent because it most certainly is. The dilemma I faced was due to the fact that Michael Graves, the band’s drummer, just happens to be my second cousin. But in the ensuing days after I first listened to the album, Ride on the Train sunk its hooks into me and I just had to let people know about it. It might be one of the best rock records you’re gonna hear all year. I did make myself one promise, however: don’t talk about how great the drumming is.
Rounding out the group’s lineup is singer/guitarist Mike Montali, guitarist Jon Bonilla, and bassist Dillon Devito. Michael Hesslein contributed organ and piano on some of the songs and sometimes performs live with the group.
On songs like “Down on Your Luck” and “Gypsy Black Cat,” Devito’s ambling bass work provides a solid backbone from which to support the blistering lead guitar attack from Jon Bonilla, which is the musical equivalent of pissing on the third rail: dirty, disgusting, and heart-stoppingly electrifying. It’s almost hard to believe he’s versatile enough to pull off the seething solo of “Doghouse Blues” alongside the gentle beauty of “If It Ain’t Me”’s classical acoustic guitar melody. To be able to convey the melancholic vulnerability of the latter song and then unleash the visceral burst of restless fury that is “Walk on Water” back to back is a feat that most guitarists simply cannot pull off.
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