Devil’s Holler is a project from multi-instrumentalist Rob Gray. Rob has shared the stage with a long list of local and national artists such as Slim Forsythe and his New Payday Loaners, Jim Avett, The Roe Family Singers, The Beagle Brothers, The Harlan Twins, Faithful Sinners, Buddy Nutt and many more.
Rob released his first album “Songs for the Half Awake” as Several Conclusions in 2008. Rob put out a second album under this moniker called “How we pass” (2011), crafting an evolution of spooky Americana. Songs of death, love, whiskey and loss stretch over each album.
Now in 2014 “Croatoa” finally hits the airwaves as a full 10 track release under the name Devil’s Holler. Rob Gray writes and plays with a confidence and authority that is earthy, reassuring and carefree. This kind of relaxed mastery is refreshing in today’s hyper self-conscious, ever slicker world of entertainment.
He’s one of those songwriters you want to listen closely to as his lyrics usually don’t follow the predictable and this is recorded so you can hear every word. There are hints of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and anything else that has an intense in-your-face feeling – like seeing him playing up close in a small club, or jamming in a home studio, or on the front porch.
Gray’s voice and singing style is warm, seasoned, and comfortable – like slipping back into your old jean jacket on the first crisp day of fall To completely appreciate this album, you’ve got to find time to sit down throw the legs back, break open a bottle or get yourself a Spliff and digest it from start to finish, while listening to the lyrics, the beautiful and haunting melodies plus the great musicianship.
Discovering Rob Gray aka Devil’s Holler was like stumbling on a diamond. Maybe more like stumbling on a diamond mine because “Croatoa” is filled with gems, both the rough, and the cut and polished kind. Right from the acoustic guitar strumming on the opening track, “Movin On”, you can experience the ease and joy of discovering thoughtful sounds usually buried by all the hype for high-profile music which is essentially pushed into your face. Gray’s music is different, you get drawn into the music rather than having it pushed in your face.
By the fourth track, “Beautiful”, you’ll be caught up in a mesmerizing set of songs that just get more intense and satisfying with each new track. From “Into The Stars”, “Dark Days”, and “Sun Across The Sea” to “Kada Umremo” and “Coins”, Rob Gray’s slightly raspy, smoky voice with bitter sweet phrasing, fits together as well as the progression of sound and texture does on “Croatoa”.
This music on “Croatoa” is understated and sounds very, honest from the opening bars. Without any studio trickery to cover up the ‘warts’, the music stands on the strength of the songs themselves which at their best are absolutely captivating. How Rob Gray aka Devil’s Holler does so much with so little is pretty amazing.
I’ve heard a whole lot of descriptions for Rob Gray’s music; I wouldn’t even attempt to label his sound, only to say that once you hear it, you’ll be hooked!