Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors with special guest Donovan Woods
There are no strangers at a Drew Holcomb show. For the better part of two decades, the award-winning songwriter has brought his audience together night after night, turning his shows into celebrations of community, collaboration, and contemporary American roots music. Strangers No More, the ninth album from Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, celebrates that sense of togetherness. Produced by Cason Cooley, it expands the band's mix of timeless songwriting, modern-day Laurel Canyon folk, amplified Americana, and heartland rock & roll. "All The Money in the World," with its deep-pocketed groove that showcases The Neighbors’ musicality, is punctuated by blasts of brass, marking the band’s first song to feature horns. "That's On You, That's On Me" makes room for barrelhouse piano, slide guitar, and the greasy grit of a juke joint rock band. "On a Roll" and "Possibility" are Springsteen-sized rock & roll melodramas that wail and exalt, their cinematic arrangements built for the large rooms that Holcomb regularly plays these days. "Fly" is a reflective, finger-plucked folksong. Finally, there's "Dance With Everybody,” a lively tribute to the live show that brims with a joyful optimism — a feeling that was often missing during the band’s earlier years, when their shows weren’t nearly as packed. Song by song, Strangers No More offers an all-encompassing view not only of the places Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors have been, but where they're headed next, too. It's an invitation into the band's world. Strangers no more, indeed.
Donovan Woods was in on the joke when he named his previous release. Riffing on a lyric from a Martin Simpson song (“Never Any Good”), Big Hurt Boy is a six-song exploration of how our failures — and our fixations on them — not only shape but enlighten us.
“I write about them again and again, just hoping people will still be interested,” the acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter says. “So the title is poking fun of myself, that I’m theoretically this big sad guy who keeps getting dumped and writing songs about it.”
Or you could think of it this way: Woods’ deep curiosity about the human condition is why we so clearly hear our own stories in his. The details differ, the characters change, but at their core, Donovan Woods songs are for and about everyone.
That trend continues on with his latest single, “I’m Around.” Serving a preview of new music to come, Woods continues with the luminous production touches that has defined his recent work. The song is deeply personal, and universally relatable. At its surface, it is about a breakup, but with Woods’ layered songwriting, there’s so much more to it.
“It’s about how we sometimes don’t stop loving even when we’re not in love anymore,” he explains. “I wanted it to be practical and unsentimental, without subtext. (I am useful, if you need me. I don’t want to but I will.)”
Co-written with David Hodges, Woods recorded “I’m Around” with Mike Sonier in Los Angeles earlier this year. “It’s a song encompassing nearly everything I’m trying to do with songwriting,” Woods says. “Explaining what the day feels like while giving latent sadness and regret an elegant push out of my mind, into the air. “
As an in-demand songwriter whose work has been recorded by the likes of Tim McGraw (“Portland, Maine”) and Lady A’s Charles Kelley (“Leaving Nashville”), Woods has been venturing beyond the singer-songwriter scene where he first cut his teeth. Equally at home in folk and country, he has worked with songwriters such as Tom Douglas, Lori McKenna, Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe, Dustin Christensen, Femke Weidema, Steve Robson, and Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies).
Woods' featured vocals on Dabin & Nurko’s “When This Is Over” veered into anthemic dance pop, and yet he still sounded right at home. On “IOWA,” Woods found a kindred spirit in Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan for a pastoral meditation on dreaming of a place you know doesn’t exist.