Hollie Smith: Water or Gold

21 May


As the long summer comes to a close, homegrown soul queen Hollie Smith returns with a real barn burner of an album, Water or Gold. While there are a few low key ballads, the emphasis here is considerably more energetic and confident.

The title track kicks things off in great style, with a funky distorted riff that recalls the psychedelic soul of the early seventies. ‘Lady Dee’ and ‘Holding On’ are built in the same style, blending a modern pop sensibility with a healthy dose of analogue swing.

‘Lead the Way’ has a great fuzzy guitar, horn section and organ. It’s an old-fashioned soul stomper that would not have looked place on an early 70s Stax LP.

‘Poor On Poor’ continues the hard rocking approach into more a political direction, with Smith lamenting the infighting among the 99 per cent while the rich continue to profit at their expense.

The second half of the album sees Smith dip into more experimental, electronic waters.

‘Older Younger’ and ‘Make Believe’ sound like she has been listening to a lot of Robert Glasper. Indeed, ‘Make Believe’, with its processed backing vocals, samples and keyboards, could have come from Glasper’s Black Radio.

Overall, Water or Gold is a terrific showcase for one of New Zealand’s best voices.


By Tim George


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