Taylor Hollingsworth is a baby-faced rapscallion from Birmingham, Alabama, who appears to have something that might be mistaken for the blues, though I presume that it probably is not. He appears on the cover of his new record, Tragic City, in front of a marquee sign that boasts his name and album title, his hand outstretched in a standoffish come-along-with-me pose—but not standoffish in a “badass rebel” sort of way, more in the “I’m not the kind of guy you would trust with your children” sort of way. He looks dangerously creepy and quite possibly possessed.
But parents, rest easy. Taylor Hollingsworth is possessed, but it ain’t by demons or poltergeists. Nope, the thing that’s steering old Taylor’s soul through this gritty sludge-fest of a record is the Spirit of Rawk. Taylor hails from the Dirty South, where they take their bar bands and grit
seriously, and Tragic City is a record designed to satisfy those whose hunger for pub rock extends far beyond Saturday nights at their respective watering holes. For the most part, it succeeds.
Perhaps it’s to Hollingsworth’s credit that, of the countless rock bands to whom he is compared in his press kit—the Stones, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Crazy Horse, the Stooges, the MC5, Jet—he doesn’t really sound like any of them, the other end of that double-edged sword being that he’s nowhere near as good as any of them, either. Across Tragic City‘s thrirteen fairly consistent tracks, never does the Rock-O-Meter rise beyond “slightly above average”, and it proves a detriment to the album’s resonance in the long haul.
Hollingsworth’s finest moments are the shuffles. “I’m a Runaway (New Orleans)” and “Like a Cave” are both move-your-feet songs, and they soar. Organs bounce in and out of the mix, and the guitars gnash at the speakers over a beat that could be explained musically as the Dancing Barfly. The shakin’ rhythms give Hollingsworth the most room to realize his melodic talents, which are grossly underrepresented elsewhere on the record.
The low points are the ballads. On “Bonnie and Clyde”, Hollingsworth sounds like Cartman from South Park, amusing perhaps, but hardly the stuff of the criminal about whom he’s singing. Similar in vein is “Gambling Barroom Blues”, an acoustic number that would have been a thousand times better if it weren’t for the abysmal scat-singing and trumpet noodling that exist, as far as I can tell, for the sole purpose of adding additional noises to the track. The song also features as many frivolous liquor references as a frat-boy’s MySpace profile.
The remainder of the album is mainly composed unremarkable rock songs. “Little Queenie”‘s bratty tune is downright obnoxious, as nagging and off-putting as the yammering of the neighbor lady’s irate Chihuahua. It sounds like your local pub band’s token “original song”, the song that is repeatedly placed in sets between cover versions of “Big Balls” and Duke Jupiter’s “Little Lady”, the song during which all intoxicated bar patrons retire to their respective restrooms and re-energize themselves for whichever rock hit of the ‘70s turns up next in the repertoire. A good many of the songs on Tragic City suffer from being the types of songs that you just don’t remember in the morning; they’re good for the shaking of the booty, but not for anything else.
But perhaps that’s all Hollingsworth is going for, and he mostly succeeds. The musical world isn’t exactly clamoring for more albums like this, but it’s hardly worse for them. If you can’t make it to the bar this weekend, but find yourself still needing a fix, you can probably score a cost-effective copy of Tragic City on Amazon. You won’t remember it in the morning, but then, would you have your bar experience any other way?