On their latest album, members of local band Cranford Hollow wanted to capture the essence of the Lowcountry.
In order to fully embody their Hilton Head Island roots, they made sure everything from their recording location to guest cameos to actual sound bore the stamp of the island.
On Oct. 25, Cranford Hollow will premiere the new songs from their self-titled album at Riptides on Hilton Head. There will be a pre-party before the show, and the band will take the stage at 9.
This is the band's first album under its new name, Cranford Hollow.
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The name change has been working out for the band so far, singer and guitarist John Cranford said, and gave them somewhat of a clean slate going into their latest record.
Last summer, the band released a full-length, self-titled LP under the original moniker Cranford & Sons.
"That was kind of like the first day of school, the freshman effort, whatever you want to call it," Cranford said. "The CD is really good ... but we really didn't know what the hell we were doing."
On their sophomore effort, Cranford, fiddler Eric Reid, bassist Phil Sirmans and new drummer Julius DeAngelis seem like they've gotten it together.
Reid's raspy voice and Cranford's growl come through as gruffly and wonderfully as ever, and the music feels familiar but new in an exciting way.
The album was recorded and produced locally at The Sound on Hilton Head. Producer Greg Critchley was tasked with helping the band explore new sounds while retaining their authentic "Lowcountry Stomp," a name it uses to describe the bluegrass, roots rock music.
Pushing the band to musical maturity involved bucking tradition, Critchley said, like having Reid play violin through a guitar amp or making a song three verses long instead of the standard two.
"It takes it to a place that you wouldn't expect, but it's still them," Critchley said.
Recording on the island enabled Cranford Hollow to include their local music friends on the album as well. Jon J. Miller, Martin Lesch, John Wilkins, Adam Gardner and Scott Evans are credited on various songs.
"That's the cool thing about Hilton Head," Cranford said. "There are extremely talented musicians down here."
Cranford said the band tried to keep everything as in-house as possible, even the CD's cover art, which Cranford designed. His real pride and joy, however, is the songs themselves. Cranford, Reid, Sirmans and Critchley all collaborated on songwriting, culminating in a sundry list of tracks "good enough to show my grandmother," Cranford said.
"The songs are so different. Each song is almost a different genre," he added. "We're taking everything we love in the music universe and applying it on here."
The first track, "Drop of Whiskey," is reminiscent of 1970s Nashville with the honky tonk of a pedal steel guitar, while the full brass section on "5th Avenue" gives the track a lively New Orleans-style groove.
Perhaps most inventive is the Eastern European vibe on "Miles Beyond the Heart," which combines an accordion, a violin, the piano and Cranford singing Romanian in the intro. It's like a Euro-chic version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." An apt alternative title could have been "The Devil Went Down to Romania."
The band arguably saves the best for last with the soulful and stirring "Closer," with Atlanta singer Angie Aparo sharing lead vocals with Cranford.
Even with so many different sounds, the album is cohesive. As a gapless piece of work, each track is best heard seamlessly without any pause, as intros directly follow the end of each song.
Sounds of Hilton Head also interlace throughout the record, which Cranford went around recording on his iPhone to use in the ambient intros. There's a rainstorm, an alligator hiss, chirping birds and ringing bells from a church on Cordillo Road.
"This is the sound of where we are. Right now," Cranford said.
"It's Hilton Head."
Audio: John Cranford discusses how the band picked "Cranford Hollow" as its name and their new album
Video: "Closer," by Cranford Hollow feat. Angie Aparo
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.