Photographer: Delaney Davidson.
After releasing Slowtown Now! in August 2015 (recorded in England and her first album featuring a full band in a decade), Holly Golightly might have left some fans wondering if she was moving back to the ragged-but-right pop vocal sound she first made her name with rather than the stripped-down and rootsy approach of her albums with the Brokeoffs. The appearance of Coulda Shoulda Woulda in October 2015, released just two months later and recorded with her Brokeoffs collaborator Lawyer Dave, should serve as evidence that Slowtown Now! was just a detour, but Coulda Shoulda Woulda is definitely a step up from most of Golightly's albums since relocating to the United States. While Golightly's voice has always been strong enough to suit the bluesy, country-accented material that dominates the Brokeoffs' albums, on Coulda Shoulda Woulda the accompaniment is more full-bodied, with Jeff Walls (formerly of Electric Frankenstein and Guadalcanal Diary) contributing guitar on several tracks, and the layered guitars, keyboards, and drums giving this a richness that's been absent from much of Golightly's sessions with the Brokeoffs. There's also a lively sense of irreverence in the material, from the outlaw neighbors in "Apartment 34" and the reefer-smoking lost souls of "Marijuana, the Devil's Flower," to several tunes that thumb their nose at religion, including the anti-Christmas carol "Christmas Is a Lie" and the screed against the collection plate "Heaven Buy and Buy," and if the songs in the latter category lack a certain subtlety, Golightly sings them with the fervor of a true non-believer. Ultimately, Coulda Shoulda Woulda swaggers with a spirit that's closer to rock & roll than most of Golightly's earlier releases with the Brokeoffs; she seems happy to rise to the occasion and belt out her tunes with authority and snarky joy, and that's what makes this album a success. ~ Mark Deming