Devil’s Holler is a project from multi-instrumentalist and Pittsburgh native Rob Gray, who performs acoustic-based Americana roots music infused with slide guitar, bass and stompbox. Gray has released 5 albums, including his latest, “The Dusty Road Stumble” and has shared the stage with a host of local and national artists. If you enjoy books that take you into unimagined lands, foods that surprise and please, and effortlessly intriguing conversation. If you enjoy allowing yourself to discover parts of life you didn’t know you liked, Devil’s Holler new album is an opportunity to expand yourself into an eclectic, unassuming, visceral and genuine space full of deep reflection and soul.
Rob Gray sings with a warm, occasionally booming voice, eloquently relating his stories to you, rather than reading a script. His voice evokes imagined memories of the intriguing man you really wanted to know better, in spite of his inscrutable, occasionally gloomy nature. In a time rich with polished pop singer and songwriters, Gray’s work reveals more than a vocal talent: he doesn’t apologize for the lingering aroma of tobacco and last night’s whiskey glasses left out on the counter-top.
The songs are diverse. Included are bluesy woe, twang-filled anecdotes, even sweet ballads with nostalgic memories attached to them. Instrumentation is bold without being too precious. Acoustic strings and simple percussion dominate, but please allow for live-sounding takes. A few tunes are direct and memorable; others flirt with rhythm, lyric and pattern that invite repeated exploration. In all, it is never too technical, never cloying, and often seemingly naked.
“The Dusty Road Stumble” will be constant visitor to your media player on the wrong side of midnight. Devil’s Holler sings in a sober blues and folk drawl that often understates his command of blues and roots singing. Gray’s talent is common to most great interpreters of Americana, he knows how to savor precisely the right syllables and words to craft his own distinctive style.
He understands that real style and substance is as much about what you sing, as how you sing. The timeless quality of Gray’s songwriting invites comparisons to some legendary roots music composers of the past, and his songs too, will improve with age like a fine vintage wine.
This is an incredible album that I cannot recommend highly enough. The instrumentals and Rob Gray’s vocals, all create an eerie, haunting and enchanting soulfulness. The music is kind of bluesy, folksy — simultaneously nostalgic and fresh — like something from an alternate universe where time stands still so you can savor every moment at your own pace without missing anything. Every song has a unique quality and vibrancy, yet all flow together flawlessly.
Standouts “Music and my Horse”, “Trip Sixes” and “The Light” rattle and roll, while “In The Alley”, “Goodbye My Friend” and “One Foot In” slink and slide, as Rob Gray’s mesmerizing singing voice – rich, intricate and resonating impacts your soul. This is music at its purest best. “The Dusty Road Stumble” is raw, unpretentious, brutally honest and simply human.