It's impossible to talk about Michael Holland's music without first mentioning Jennyanykind, the Chapel Hill troupe he and twin brother Mark have worked in for years.
Wrapping tattered edges of roots music like blues and old time around warm, trance-like undulations, the Hollands get to the heart of the matter in simple, but often majestic ways. This respect for original American music, hammered like copper sheets into their rock and roll, is akin to Memphis' The Grifters, whose Dave Shouse once said, "Well, our first blues record wasn't 'Exile on Main Street.'"
The same applies here. This solo release bears out that love of rural music. It's a recording intended as a wedding present in 1999, based on an unnamed poem about a poor bootlegger's trials and tribulations. Book-ended by two spare songs of only voice and guitar, the songs often have an otherworldly quality, intended as dreams, especially on the pulsing, ghostly instrumental "Appalachian Meditation." The voice is sometimes faint and distant, as on "Fever For You," or has a Dylan whine quality, as on the opener "Chandelier." On "Make the Night Last Forever," Holland sings like a young Roy Orbison, in a high operatic howl, with harmonizing and a horn gently rising in the background. It's disappointing that a couple of these songs are like rough charcoal sketches of songs, rather than those detailed wood block prints usually submitted from the Holland camp, evidenced by the occasional, though nearly inaudible, drum machine beat or such.
That's quibbling, though. Bootlegger's Dreams is a fine collection of songs originally intended as a gift to friends, and really doesn't lose much in the transition to full release. It just makes one want more. So, for more from the Holland brothers, look for the brand new Jennyanykind record, Peas and Collards, due out on Charlotte label MoRisen records, with record release parties coming on Sept. 19 at De La Luz in Chapel Hill, and Oct. 17 at Local 506.