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Hoots and Hellmouth

The Holy Open Secret – 2009 (MAD Dragon)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by Hoots and Hellmouth

Much like the idyllic river described in Roll, Brandywine, Roll, the final track on the new album from Hoots & Hellmouth, the Philadelphia-based trio has the ability to both excite and soothe listeners depending on the current of the music.

Part retro and part contemporary, Hoots & Hellmouth effortlessly blends folk-inspired acoustic stylings with memorable three-part group harmonies to create a progressive sound with a nod to the past. Rob Berliner, Andrew Gray and Sean Hoots have created an innovative and exciting new sound, and they show it off throughout the 10 tracks.

The the spontaneous live feel of You And All Of Us and Known For Possession, songs that seemingly drop the listener into the middle of an impromptu studio session with the group, and the driving acoustic funk of What Good Are Plowshares If We Use Them Like Swords?, are three of the tracks that provide some of the more energetic moments.

The calmer portions of the album are supplied by the tender balladry of Ne'er Do Well and the aforementioned Roll, Brandywine, Roll, along with Dishpan Hands, a track made much more compelling by the dynamic shifts that create a feeling of building and receding within the song.

If you dig genre-bending bands like The Avett Brothers, G. Love & Special Sauce, Chatham County Line and The Felice Brothers, or you enjoy your contemporary Americana music with one foot squarely in the past and the other stretched toward the future, then Hoots & Hellmouth and "The Holy Open Secret" may be just what you are looking for.