I was working on an artist of the year post just the other day and for some reason I didn’t think of Brando’s Lair, even though I am a huge fan of lead singer Barry Holdship and have been since the mid-1980s. Barry is such a regional artist whatever group he is in and (he has been just an iteration away from breaking nationally) everything he does is impeccably executed soul, r&b, rockabilly and rock n roll.
“Santa Bring My Baby Back” is a song so great that last year I included it in the greatest Christmas songs ever (here). Co-written by Claude Demetrius, one of the Gladys Music stable of songwriters, responsible for the likes of “I Was The One” and “Hard Headed Woman” and co-wrote this one here, it is branded Presley from a man who knew how to write for him. The song is a perfect Christmas number with Elvis personifying the sexuality he can’t dial down. Brando’s Lair get Presley, they have played and listened to him so long and hard it’s just like breathing for them and their version is artful in its playfulness, it is a rockabilly ease; Barry has never been sexier with his acoustic guitar and his boyish good looks and his Presleyish left leg keeping time, his hip rotating on its axis and the shades a rock accouterment, it is way, way cool. His vocal gets the Presley timbre and hiccup, like a sexy Buddy Holly, perfectly: Barry isn’t a tribute band leader, he is a great singer using what he needs from Presley.
Brando Lair dropped seven songs this year, four covers, one original by Barry, two by guitarist Stephen Szajna and a seventh, the icing on the Christmas cake brilliant take on an Elvis Xmas. As great a version as you’d expect from a man who ten years after Let’s Talk About Girls released the thirteen song The Jesse Garon Project. And all year long they have dropped songs with the band, anchored by drummer Britt Slocum, who is so good in the video above and whose “Hum Ba Dum Ba Dun Ba” made me smile with pure pleasure, he is a loose and yet tight groover.
Look at this way, success in the music business is 90% luck, and despite Holdship deserving to be considered a rock god, his luck sucked. That doesn’t make him any better or any worse, and the music doesn’t default to tedium just because he remains a secret outside of one of the greatest rock cities of all time, Detroit. Brando’s Lair had a brilliant 2021, seven songs, each one as great the other, and concluding with a masterstroke of pop love. Greatest artist of 2021? As Britt might put it, Hum Ba Dum Ba Dun Ba.
Ryan Adams is currently playing the best shows of his career
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – October 1972 (Volume 4, Number 5)
We leap ahead almost a year
A flatout triumph from a major performer
New Wave pop bliss out
I WISH I HADN’T GONE
a time-capsule type of roster
Creem -America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – November 1971 (Volume 3, Number 6)
“Sure, we don’t pay much but then who else do ya know who’ll publish you?”
in the immortal words of Jason Isbell to me at Gov Ball a coupla years ago: “let’s do this…”
one of the great top tens of the 2020
old school Puerto Rican underground sounds