Playing For An Audience Of Candles

Luke Holder

Independent release, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


In the package insert to this CD, Amarillo, Texas folk-rocker Luke Holder called this the CD he always wanted to make. Holder, who quit what he describes as a "college degree and a future" to make music, apparently has a pretty damn demanding muse. To a certain extent, your reviewer can empathize with this - I started learning guitar at 32 - but I also know from painful experience that sometimes those songs aren't as good as you thought they were.

So which is Holder? Interesting question. I think, in this case, we have to call Holder a work in progress. Playing isn't a great album… in fact, in places it's not even good… but there's sufficient potential in it that five years from now Luke Holder could be a name you recognize.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First, the good. Holder is a damned talented lyricist; he has fun with words, plainly taking joys in turns of phrases and backhanded references. Unlike many folk singers, however, you can actually figure out what the hell he's talking about, which is a definite plus for those of us who actually listen to the words. Holder's also a pretty fair guitarist; while he's no Eddie Van Halen, he uses a wide spectrum of playing styles to his advantage, from an almost delta blues sound on "Built On Opinion" to some Indigo Girls-style riffs on "Troubled Sea". Perhaps the most interesting part about this entire CD is that Holder doesn't immediately sound like he's trying to sound like anyone else; this is a rarity in a world where a lot of people are still trying to be the next Bob Dylan.

However, there are some drawbacks. First and foremost, Holder's voice is at varying times thin, flat, or sharp. He doesn't seem to write music with the limits of his voice in mind, and it shows on several tracks, most notably "Darkness Training" (what the hell was that, anyway?) and "Cracks". The production is weak, as well, though given this was a self-produced and self-released CD that's to be expected somewhat. I admit to also being burned out on the number of drug references, specifically to huffing or sniffing various substances. Luke, those who do drugs don't usually have the time to talk about it that much, and those who make drug references to add grit to a musical work are posers.

Finally - and this, perhaps, is the hardest to quantify - there doesn't seem to be any emotional extremes in Holder's work. Yes, his songs express emotion, but they left me curiously flat in a sort of emotionus interruptus, in the end unsatisfying. If Holder can get past this, the other problems will, I suspect, work themselves out.

Holder has a second CD out, Penumbra, that I must admit to being interested in hearing at some point, and that in and of itself means that Playing For An Audience Of Candles did its job. Here's hoping Holder avoids the pitfalls that caught him a few times on this CD, and he continues to develop what is, to all appearances, considerable potential.

Rating: B-

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