Wednesday, May 31, 2006

***The Hollow Trees***

These guys have definitely done their homework. Or have at least spent countless hours scouring the flea markets of southern California for out-of-print folk albums. Maybe they were lucky enough to have grown up in a household where these kinds of songs wafted through the air during childhood summers. Whatever the case, Los Angeles’ The Hollow Trees have created an album that is a throwback to the classic Pete Seeger/Burl Ives sound, and yet is amazingly fresh and original. Even hoary chestnuts like “Polly Wolly Doodle” and “Shoo Fly” totally belong to The Hollow Trees on this CD.

From the opening ring of a banjo on “Raccoon and Possum” to the sad and sonorous draw of a bow across a bass fiddle on “Buckeye Jim”, guitarist Greg McIlvaine and bassist Laura Steenberge (aka Gregory Hollow Tree and Laura Hollow Tree) treat the listener to an amazingly entertaining array of songs. Magnificently played and expertly recorded (in McIlvaine’s home studio, no less), The Hollow Trees’ self-titled debut was released last year on their own Hollow Trees Records. A friend of The Hollow Trees created the cover art, and McIlvaine designed the inner sleeve map that details the location of “Nelson”, a character described in the tune of the same name.

Need a drinking song for toddlers? Why, crank up “Jack was Every Inch a Sailor” and hoist your juice boxes! How about an extremely silly song that’s silly for the sake of silliness? Well, then, try “The Whale Song”, which almost brought a tear to the eye of a coworker, who fondly remembered the nonsensical lyrics from her childhood. Oh, and if you’re looking for the perfect preschool storytime activity song, play their original “Bunny Hop”, it’ll make you smile.

With a reverent but playful nod to the classic folk sound of the late 40s to the early 60s, The Hollow Trees use a combination of old folk tunes, sea shanties, and originals to make a modern day classic. Check it out. Turn it up. Have a hootenanny!