Asheville’s Holler Choir has announced it will deliver its debut record, Songs Before They Write Themselves on January 12. An addendum to its widely-celebrated 2022 EP, Mountain Air, the fast-rising string band is poised to reach the masses with the unveiling of its first full-length collection. Ahead of the forthcoming release, the group has shared its bluegrass-tinged take on Nirvana’s hit song, “Heart Shaped Box,” out today on all digital streaming platforms. Listen and share here.
Featuring the lyrical prowess of Clint Roberts and bolstered by the talents of Johnson City’s Helena Rose on harmony vocals and dulcet clawhammer banjo, Holler Choir creates original music steeped in the mystical sensibilities of old-time Appalachia. Alongside upright bassist Norbert McGettigan and a steady rotating cast of collaborators, the ever-evolving ensemble has found a singular voice that summons all the well-worn elements of Americana, bluegrass, and folk and brings them into a fresh context. The result is a colorful patchwork of time-honored traditions and modern eclecticism that challenges the confines of conventional songwriting with impressive oneness.
On Songs Before They Write Themselves, Holler Choir joined forces with GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer Michael Ashworth (of Steep Canyon Rangers fame), along with engineer Jason Richmond (The Avett Brothers, Rising Appalachia), and mastering virtuoso Kim Rosen. Tracked entirely inside the converted chapel of Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville, the latest opus from Holler Choir showcases exceptional craftsmanship and discernment on every level.
“The only way to know how far you’ve come sometimes is to look behind you,” shares frontman Clint Roberts, adding, “...and I can’t define the unit that is Songs Before They Write Themselves without at least some retrospection on what came before it. I think that for many artists, particularly writers, there is a wandering phase that is necessary to reach a creative thesis. If you know exactly what you’re trying to say with your art from the moment you pick up your medium, that’s great, but few of us start there. In making my previous EP, Mountain Air, I saw it as a pilot hole for something bigger; an arrival at a creative home that I could fully call my own. With Songs Before They Write Themselves, I think I’ve found the nail.”
At its core, Songs Before They Write Themselves is a record at the crossroads of the past, present, and future. The name itself implies an uncertain fate for the creation of music, subtly hinting at the specter of AI-generated songwriting, and, on a broader scale, humanity’s significant dependence on technology. While Roberts speaks to familiar themes of heartbreak, melancholy, and the discomfort of change, larger existential questions permeate the overall mood, conjuring introspective, and often unsettling, prompts for personal meditation.
With no fillers in sight, each track on the collection underlines Holler Choir’s distinct ability to venerate regional techniques without compromising ingenuity. “Hard Pill,” one of the foremost songs on the record, puts the remarkable fingerwork of Helena Rose on full display while illuminating Roberts’ emotive vocal tenor. The tongue-in-cheek “Hamlet Blues” offers astute juxtaposition between its despondent lyrical undertones and upbeat presentation, while “Ain’t Too Soon” toys with deeply subjective observations about the construct of faith and religion through an ironically-zealous melody. “Heart Shaped Box,” the only cover on the album, provides a deliberate reprieve from Roberts’ internal unfolding while highlighting just how universal the human condition truly is.
Calling to mind the likes of modern Americana greats including Watchhouse, Mipso, and The Milk Carton Kids, the first full-length fixture in Holler Choir’s catalog is a triumphant tour-de-force of evocative reflection, powerful self-actualization, and perpetual discovery. Songs Before They Write Themselves arrives on digital streaming platforms on January 12, 2024. For more information, visit HollerChoir.com.
Songs Before They Write Themselves Track List
One Less Lie
Fair Weather Lover
Heart Shaped Box
Ain’t Too Soon
Holler Choir Tour Dates
12/06 – Charleston Pour House – Charleston, SC*
12/08 – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC^
12/9 – Radio Room – Greenville, SC
12/10 – Radio Room – Greenville, SC
12/15 – Visulite Theatre – Charlotte, NC*
12/30 – New Brookland Tavern – Columbia, SC
12/31 – Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh, NC*
1/19 – Flat Iron – Greensboro, NC
*SUSTO String Band
^New West Records Holiday Ho Down