Los Angeles quartet Holy Folk is a collaboration between songwriters Keith Waggoner, Josh Caldwell, Ryan George and Jonathan Hylander. The band began in 2009 with Caldwell and Waggoner, who at the time, played together in the band, Les Blanks. George and Hylander joined the effort in 2012 and began contributing material to what would become Motioning. Somewhat similar to fellow LA residents The Fortress Social Club that we reviewed recently, Holy Folk grew from a studio collaboration into a rock band with a lot of variety in style and tempo, a ton of talent and a way with pop hooks. There's something about studio musicians getting together to put their own ideas on record - they bring not only a familiarity with different styles, but a real sense of purpose that shows through in the music. All four of them write, and that contributes to the variety of sounds and styles on Motioning.
The opening track "A Moment Here" is reminiscent of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or The Band, with pedal steel, banjo, violin and slow and easy harmony vocals in a song about reaping and sowing.
"Time Lapse" has a more pop style, with more synths than the opener, and soulful vocal harmonies that would not be out of place on something by Brian Wilson or Todd Rundgren. Track 3, "All's Forgotten" is an uptempo country rock tune with emphasis on electric guitar, piano and a pretty much straight-ahead rock vocal. And the record carries on in similar fashion, swinging back and forth from up- to down-tempo, some songs featuring swells of strings and others more straight-ahead rock instrumentation. The common factor, other than the overall high quality of the songwriting, is that most of the songs feature some terrific vocal harmonies. It's clear that these four enjoy working together, and that makes for a very enjoyable debut record.
You can get a free download of “Jump The Rails”, which gives a good example of the uptempo stuff - with some real rock energy, good piano work and those great harmonies. And here they are performing it live on AXS Live:
Holy Folk is absolutely a band to watch. It's not often a debut album arrives with this kind of variety, quality and assuredness. Motioning is available now - you can listen to it, and learn more, at their website.