With her recently released debut, Underdog Anthems, Nashville standout Jax Hollow stakes her claim as an up-and coming musician of great promise. The brief, but authentically energetic album only runs around 25 minutes, yet it contains enough diverse musical moments to keep things interesting. Hollow’s music and writing style show considerable range, and the brevity of the tracks aids in their ability to deliver a solid helping of emotionally charged singing and guitar work.
Starting with her debut single “High Class Bitch,” Hollow and company begin with a crunchy no-nonsense riff that quickly alternates between driving the tune’s rhythm and harmonizing with her voice. Both her guitar playing and her voice exude a sense of confidence that creates a powerful overall sound. Michael Wagener adds just the right amount of production to a well balanced mix that couples nicely with Hollow’s taut compositions. On “High Class Bitch,” as well as the rest of the tracks, solos never linger or distract from the song’s message even though it is readily apparent that Hollow possesses ample ability to shred should she so desire.
“Rebound” sounds quite different from its predecessor in terms of guitar voicing, tempo, and overall mood. Once again, Hollow hits the mark with tasteful instrumental passages that vary widely in both speed and pitch. Shifting gears again, “Say My Name” feeds off a hard-charging rhythm to match the tune’s intense vocal tone and is appropriately matched with the lyrics’ aggressive declaration.
One of the best aspects of Underdog Anthems is the variance in types of songs. Having “Drift Together” and “Breathe” featured in the same set highlights Hollow’s musical and emotional range. The album closer, “Breathe,” veers into heavy metal territory with its intense tone. Compared to the heartfelt acoustic “Drift Together,” an unsuspecting audience could be forgiven for thinking they were listening to two different bands. Besides being a candidate for the best track, “Drift Together” contains arguably the album’s best moments with a wonderfully crafted chorus that is as big as it is memorable.
From a lyrical standpoint, Underdog Anthems makes good on its name. Hollow wears her heart on her sleeve. The themes of the songs are personal and emotional, but not overly so. Her prose is never overly-florid, but she makes sure to include more than a couple clever turns of phrase. She serves as the focal point on each track, but she doesn’t fall into the showboating trap. This allows her bandmates opportunities to contribute to the sound without their additions sounding forced. It is a successful team effort all around.
If there exists a complaint to be levied it might be that some listeners will reach the end of the album and wish that there was more material. That’s really not all that bad as far as detractors go, because Jax Hollow has things to say and a solid creative voice with which to share them. This debut reflects her palpable love of music, so for those who enjoy Hollow’s first foray into album creation—and there should be many—they probably won’t have to wait long for a second helping.
The Review: 8.0/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– High Class Bitch
– Drift Together
The Big Hit
– Drift Together