Cut Worms

Hollow Ground

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Loving the music of the Everly Brothers is something that scores of music fans have done over the years; most of those fans were content to spin the duo's records and enjoy their haunting vocal harmonies and achingly romantic songs. Cut Worms' Max Clarke took his love of the Everlys one step further, and on his debut album, Hollow Ground, re-creates their vintage sound on a set of ten songs that have all the heart and soul of the brothers' best work. With producers Jonathan Rado and Jason Finkel helping out, Clarke plays most of the instruments, vocally plays the role of both Phil and Don, and masterfully straddles the line between soda shop-sweet pop and richly twangy country as Hollow Ground's mix of jangling uptempo tracks, quiet ballads loaded with lap and pedal steel, and swaying midtempo doo wop roll by like the best songs on a greatest-hits album. While there is a lot of stylistic variety from song to song, Clarke's keening tenor is a consistent presence that cuts through the reverb and echo like an arrow shot from a long-lost lover. He can strut lightly through peppy songs ("How It Can Be"), croon with deep pools of feeling on slow songs ("Like Going Down Sideways"), get old-time country blue on barroom ballads ("Hanging Your Picture Up to Dry"), and even get a little bit gruff on the album's toughest rocker ("Cash for Gold"). It's a powerhouse vocal performance that's matched by the music he whips up and the production finesse applied by Rado and Finkel. Hollow Ground is the real deal cooked up by someone who not only loves the Everlys, but understands what made them great and is able to re-create it with an easygoing flair. It's a wonderful debut, and even if Clarke and Cut Worms veer away from this sound in the future, at least he will have left the world this one slice of genius retro-pop

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