The Beautiful Struggle
Cove House Records
No lie: it’s hard out there for independent acoustic guitar-playing singer-songwriters. What with the constant touring to grow their audience, attempting to rise above the hard sell and bombast of the pop music industry, staying creative and merely surviving – these are all major challenges.
In the face of all of this, we can be thankful for artists like Christina Holmes who manage to break through, and to create and release beautiful songs. On her third and latest album, The Beautiful Struggle, Holmes proves herself to be an artist with feet firmly planted in the present, but who respects her singer-songwriter forebears. This album is striking in its honesty and simplicity, with themes of love and sadness, and messages of hope.
“Rise”, the album’s lead-off track, embraces the listener with its comforting guitar and djembe groove, but it is a deceptively clever song. With careful listening, one realizes that Holmes is singing about U.S. politics, describing what society needs to do, in order to right past and current wrongs. In this gentlest of revolution songs, “Rise” is full of hope and optimism, and sets this album on its proper course from the start.
The theme of hope and the need for change can be found elsewhere on The Beautiful Struggle. In the song “Grow Up”, Holmes sings,
“How did we get here/
How did we even let this happen?/
We need to stop this/
We need to end all this heartache,”
exhorting her listeners to find (and create) strength in community.
This is a great album with many strong songs, and Holmes delivers her subject matter with beauty and honesty. Songs like the very frank “Addictions”, and the sweet declaration of love “Never Let Me Go” are obvious standouts. Additionally, the song “Everybody Knows”, with its layered vocals, climactic build, and impressive lead vocal performance, is a stunning centrepiece to this collection.
The Beautiful Struggle is sonically consistent throughout its 11 songs. Christina Holmes shows what can be achieved by simply presenting her songs using guitar, bass, hand drums, and vocals. But this consistency has a double edge. If there is one critique about how this album is presented, it is that the ear begins to yearn for alternate or additional instrumentation, later in the recording. This is perhaps a minor matter, but it bears consideration. Still and all, The Beautiful Struggle is a wonderful album that deserves repeated listens, and Christina Holmes is definitely an artist to watch.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTINA HOLMES – THE BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE