Shotgun Holler – Loaded

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Shotgun Holler deserves props for their bravery. Even in the cozier confines of the Midwest, it can’t be an entirely comfortable experience attempting to sell such rustic music in a modern era rarely prizing substance. This five piece is an assemblage of some of the best players working in the genre today and their natural chemistry is apparent early on. It’s easy to assume that a musical unit lacking a drummer and taking an unplugged approach is, by definition, conservative in intent, but Loaded’s songwriting makes a case early on that Shotgun Holler are aiming for something a little different than merely imitating bluegrass standards. Their bravery rewards them and listeners alike with an eleven song album that goes far beyond the label of “genre album”.

There is a little sleight of hand going on. Shotgun Holler plays some to a listener’s stereotypical assumptions about bluegrass and country music before undermining them with memorable stylistic turns. The first of those arrives with the opener, “Out in the Parkin’ Lot”, a surprisingly mournful paean to the loss innocence of teenage “hanging out”. There’s nothing about this qualifying as “bro country” or raucous honkytonk, as the title suggests, and the band’s songwriting vision is wide enough to have a real voice and create three dimensional characters. “I Hope Heaven Has a Holler” completes a memorable one-two punch to open the album. Neither song lands aggressively, but both challenge the listener and rewards those able to adjust their expectations about a bluegrass album. The interplay between fiddle, mandolin, and banjo is particularly important for the song’s musical success.


Craig Bowles