Chase The Sun

Greg Holden

Warner Brothers, 2015

http://www.gregholdenonline.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/28/2015

Chances are you’re either going to love this album or hate it—possibly even both.

My own reaction spun the needle around 360 degrees more than once. The first time through, it was all bouquets and praises; the second time it was thoroughly irritating. And then I swung back around again as its rich melodies and catchy refrains began to infiltrate my brain at random moments throughout the day.

Greg Holden has a shtick, and it’s a good one—sturdy acoustic numbers that gather momentum steadily until they break out into big choruses full of earnest affirmations and life lessons, gentle anthems full of inspirational nuggets. In the right mood, it’s easy to get caught up in the sense of purpose that resides within these tracks. Holden is full of advice and directives—“Hold On Tight”; “Save Yourself”; “Give It Away”; “Go Chase The Sun”—and most of it is spot-on and delivered with heartfelt sincerity and a hook that practically demands an audience sing-along.

It’s just that the paragraph above describes this entire album; what you get is one song like that, and then another, and another.

Holden, whose keening, sometimes rather operatic vocals reminded me more than once of Nate Ruess (fun.), invests opener “Hold On Tight” with great passion and conviction before delving further into the self-help songbook with the wise “Save Yourself.” “Nothing good is ever easy / you’ve gotta save yourself / so you can find a way to save someone else... Keep movin’ on, holding strong, let go of your mistakes.” These affirmations work mostly because Holden simply wills them to; he is that earnest and that gifted. He saves the most important line of the song for the last, though: “We all need help.” A simple truth that too many never manage to accept.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It was about the time Holden sang “If you learn to trust what love can do, you will learn there’s more to life than you” that I began to wonder, though… Does he have any songs that aren’t message songs? They’re all good messages, dressed up in well-crafted tunes, but… what else you got?

Of course, like any good showman, just when skepticism starts to creep in, Holden finds a way to banish it again. “Boys In The Street” is a simple song that plays on archetypes, but familiar, powerful ones that hit like a sledgehammer when he reaches the final stanzas of a narrative about a gay man and his old-fashioned father working past rejection and anger toward understanding and love.

And then he’s urging you to unburden yourself from worries that are “not worth the headache” (“Give It Away”), giving a friend permission to run away from his problems and start over somewhere new (“Go Chase The Sun”), and declaring that “The weight is lifted and I am free again” with big dramatic airy production behind it (“Free Again”). Songs like these can strike you as trite if you’re feeling tired and cynical, but they’re undeniably powerful; Holden has mapped the DNA of the earnest acoustic anthem and diagrammed a strategy for maximizing the potential of each and every one.

It was around this point in the album that I began to imagine Greg Holden as that instantly charismatic guy sitting in front of a middle-school assembly with an acoustic guitar who somehow convinces several hundred shy, awkward, somewhat jaded 11- and 12-year-olds to get over their insecurities and sing along. He achieves this effect with his own sense of urgency as much as the eloquence of his words.

The album closes out much as it began. “It’ll All Come Out” holds back, then surges again and again, adding electric guitar to the big choruses for extra impact. “I Won’t Forget” is more restrained, at first, but betrays a bit of a gospel preacher influence in its rolling cadences and late-song dramatics, another tune that seems to be about coming out and the resulting relief (“I won’t forget the days I lived in fear”). Closer “The Next Life” is the one curveball here, a country-tinged duet with Garrison Starr that ends up feeling like a campfire song-along… about dying and finding each other in the next life. It’s simultaneously sweet and just a little bit creepy, definitely a different moment on an album that’s otherwise consistent in sound and approach.

So, here’s my advice. If you’re feeling upbeat and open, Chase The Sun is just the thing to prolong the mood and encourage you to contemplate life’s myriad possibilities. And if you’re feeling dour and cynical, well, do you really want to stay that way? If so, avoid this album. If not, Greg Holden might just be the cure for those blues you’ve found.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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