After only one listen to Looking for Happy, the recently released fourth album from Nashville-based Lost Hollow, it is hard to imagine anyone not reaching a state of intense joy. This record is a collection of beautifully written compositions that speak to the human condition complemented by musical arrangements that so lift the spirits.
Lost Hollow are husband and wife duo Tommy and Lorrie Harden with a bit of help from family, particularly daughter Lily. Other collaborators count among the most sought after musicians in Nashville. Recorded in the Harden’s own studio Looking For Happy has strong foundations in country but goes into folk, Americana before spinning in the opposite direction with some cleverly worked pop. But just leave genres behind, Looking For Happy is all about the Hardens’ songwriting, Tommy’’s music and Lorrie’s amazing vocal range. What lingers most is their harmonies. They really do make you happy.
Self-confessed Anglophiles, Lost Hollow have travelled and performed widely in the UK. They played at last year’s C2C and to launch Looking for Happy over here they returned last week to their second home in London, The Bedford in Balham. Time did not permit any rehearsals but their relatively brief set more than demonstrated the work that had gone into Looking For Happy. With some local friends they played as if they’d been on a thirty date tour.
That professionalism is the cornerstone to Looking for Happy. The title may come across as slightly corny and the opening ukulele chords raise a doubt as to where this might go. But that’s the thing, let’s just suspend our relentless drive for coolness and irony, how about appreciating the simple things that can make us happy for a change? “Sunrise lights my smiley face clock/slidin’ in my socks I pour my first cup of tea/I’m just looking for happy”. Watch the video and enjoy a song of deep sincerity that doesn’t claim to change the world but it does touch feelings every bit as impassioned.
With that opener Lost Hollow set the scene for the rest of the album. Listening feels like taking a deep breath of the sea air shown on the video. Whether under the Florida sun or along the windswept Welsh coast Lost Hollow convey warmth and a generosity of spirit.
‘Fly Away’ is a country driving song. “Fly away down the highway, on the longest road” can be taken literally or on a more metaphoric level, but either way the fast pace, tight electric solos, some “heys” all make for a classic feel good tune. Lost Hollow do seem to have found a new direction in Looking For Happy as they layer a simple melody with some complex yet highly effective arrangements. ‘Paper Lanterns’ is a good example, two voices build up into a crescendo of sound, over which Lorrie’s voice soars. This is big music.
Tommy Harden describes Looking For Happy as something very special, and he should know as he’s worked on some big ones. Among others he has written for Reba McEntire and Carole King. Take a look at the musicians on this album. The three guitarists’ credentials span some equally big names; Mike Severs (Dolly Parton, Eric Church, Paul Simon), Jeff King (Faith Hill, Art Garfunkel, Johnny Cash) and Troy Lancaster (Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Kip Moore). There are others equally well connected and this is the company the Hardens keep. It’s amazing they aren’t better known.
‘Shine On’ is a wistful look back to happy(ier) times but even then Lost Hollow look steadily ahead with a sense of optimism. The guitar and pedal steel solos punctuate the pace with a 1970s country rock feel. That’s perhaps unsurprising as pedal steel player Dan Dugmore bought his first instrument from none other than Flying Burrito Brother, Sneaky Pete Kleinow.
‘Burn ‘em Down’ is a perfect example of Lost Hollow’s trademark harmonising duets. Tommy is the fulcrum around which Lorrie dips and glides. ‘Love Can’ is another but these harmonies pop up everywhere.
Banjo, pedal steel, slide and harmonica shout Americana all over ‘We Are One’ which boils up into a Lost Hollow ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken” complete with deserved applause at the end. That’s happy!
Picking the best is impossible but there’s no doubt the final two songs leave an indelible impression of all Lost Hollow’s songwriting, harmonising and musicianship. ‘Runaway’ is at a suitable speed heading towards a new life, again with such optimism. ‘Song To Take You Home’ is just that, an outro anthem, As it builds again, “take my hand now/ take me home/ take my love where ‘ere you go’ must surely bring a tear to the most sceptical eye.
In our fractious world there is much need for a bit more happiness. Looking For Happy does just that. Lost Hollow have an enviable knack for articulating simple yet often elusive emotions with sumptuous musicianship that deserves far greater recognition. May that be come soon.