3.5 out of 5 stars
This Queens, New York-based quintet is named after a Bob Dylan song and recently released a track-by-track re-creation of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded. So, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that their own sophomore album sounds like neither one of these musical icons. To further confuse things, both the late Bo Diddley and alt-country newcomer Nikki Lane make guest appearances but the rest of this album doesn’t resemble the songs they appear on.
Thankfully none of that matters since Hollis Brown knows how to write, arrange and churn out rugged, always tuneful rock and roll with a strong urban feel. There is no pretention or attempts to do any more than deliver the power pop goods. It helps that in lead singer/guitarist Mike Montali they have a singer with a lovely tenor that falls somewhere between Robin Gibb and the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone, for whom they opened some recent dates.
There aren’t many albums that boast 11 solid tracks so 3 Shots is unique in that even with its diversity, there are no throwaways. The duet with Lane on the finger-snapping “Highway 1” is a wonderful, retro leaning country rocker. The rootsy pop of “Sweet Tooth” seems like Tom Petty at his most direct and the sinewy “John Wayne” is reminiscent of the Dream Syndicate in their prime. Ballads such as the melancholy “Death of an Actress” and “Wait for Me Virginia” are just as catchy, with the latter seeming a lot like Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” right down to its similar sounding guitar solo. Lyrics to the opening “Cathedral” about leading a friend to salvation are a bit too obvious, but the strummed acoustic guitars and a underlying military beat keep the song from sinking under their weight.
Most impressive is that Hollis Brown makes it all seem easy. The five piece gels as one and the music rolls off them with the confidence, control and dedication of a band on their fifth album, not their second.