Review: Desert Hollow – Thirsty EP (2021)


Desert Hollow are a singer songwriter duo comprising Xander Hitzig and Nicole Olney who share a love for early traditional folk and bluegrass but are equally passionate about indie-folk and alt country music. Xander comes from the West Virginia countryside and Nicole from the California desert and they now base themselves in California. Their debut EP `Thirsty` is released this month and the pair have added the services of Johnny Hawthorn (steel guitar), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass), Adrienne Isom (upright bass) and Matt Lucich (drums) to help fill out this release.

This extended play opens with `Thirsty` a song about “being down and out but realising that’s part of the beauty of life”. It begins with a slightly off kilter banjo and Nicole`s quietly shared inflected vocal. It fills out as Xander joins in on harmonies with brushed drum and bass. We enjoy some penny whistle tones towards the latter part of the song which adds a slightly different dimension to the song. Overall, it does seem to be a delightfully engaging pledge of love from one participant to another. Xander`s deep vocals take the lead on `I Can`t Wait For Summer` which is really what it says on the tin a song of reminiscence during the dark, lonely, and cold days of winter in West Virginia and looking forward to warmer summer days and all the joys that season brings. The track seems to up it`s pace as the narrator extols the pleasures of warmer times with fiddle accompaniment and returns to a slower more lethargic vibe when it returns to winter with banjo and guitar.  

`Look At Those Birds` is a stripped back composition with just steel guitar and strummed guitar initially allowing Nicole to showcase what a delightful voice she has. A song that seems to relate to love, loss and tragedy. A mandolin joins in at the musical interludes and adds a further poignancy to this slightly melancholic number. I felt `Take Me Back To Nowhere` was almost a throwaway piece. Xander leads but Nicole is very much involved in the vocal harmonies. An offering that seems to take time out and allow the musicians involved, all to have their moment in the spotlight. A sort of old fashioned more traditional country tinged submission.

This five track extended play closes out with `Mary` which felt quite whimsical. A tale of Mary who by the sound of it is quite a challenging lady and has certainly lived a full life. The sympathetic delivery of the song from Nicole gave the character not only depth but almost made you gain some sense of compassion towards this complex character.

There`s much to enjoy with Desert Hollow`s debut EP `Thirsty` which benefits from embracing a variety of beautifully written and well delivered numbers at different paced speeds throughout. A little for all to enjoy here. This duo, individually have captivating voices and are also gifted musicians so it`ll be interesting to see how their career develops. `Thirsty` certainly left me searching for more to quench my craving.       


Rating 9 /10

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