Chris & Carla

Life Full of Holes

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AllMusic Review by

In contrast to the spare live work of Shelter for an Evening, on Life Full of Holes Chris & Carla brought in a wide range of friends and fellow performers to create an evocative album easily the equal of the Walkabouts' best efforts. Guests range from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Tindersticks, who perform in full on two separate songs, to other Seattle-area musicians such as Scott McCaughey and Steve Fisk. One guest, Richard "Dugout Dick" Zimmerman, is even recorded in his cave in Idaho, his vocals and guitar on "Sandy River Moon" at the center of a droning, instrumental piece of experimentation. At the heart of it all remain Chris & Carla themselves, though, their understated but passionate performances and often haunting songs shining with a dark beauty throughout. The first full song, "Storm Crazy," one of the Buck collaborations, sets the tone appropriately. Torgerson's classically American folk/country vocals suit the warning lyric, laden with images of impending doom and destructive love, perfectly, while the stately, measured music is equally strong. Indeed, the lyrics are especially strong throughout, many calling to mind the atmospheric metaphors of Bob Dylan's strongest work, others simple but powerful, from "Sleep Will Pass Us By" ("This town died, but they forgot the funeral") to the late-night mood of "Velvet Fog" ("Nirvana's on the jukebox, but Gene Pitney owns this town"). Musically, everything from baroque European folk tunes to avant-garde noisemaking surfaces, creating an overall feeling of hushed power throughout. There are almost too many highlights to pick out, but one thorough winner is an old George Jones chestnut, "Take Me," with Tindersticks backing the duo and that band's singer Stuart Staples duetting wonderfully with Torgerson à la Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Another is the title track, where Torgerson's melodica adds even more mystery to the proceedings. Simply put, Life Full of Holes is an underrated gem by consistently underrated performers.

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