Lucid Culture


CD Review: Julia Haltigan and the Hooligans

by Vanessa Lee Raymond

The self-titled Julia Haltigan and the Hooligans is yet another plume in the cap for the New York chanteuse and her impressively multistylistic Americana band. Their uniquely gritty, soulful sound, established in their rigorous NYC performance schedule and 2007 release, “When the Glow Starts to Go…” only gets more grimy and more sultry on this, their latest cd.

In this album Haltigan successfully presents a wide breadth of feelings and rhythms. “Knocking at the Door” boils at a tempo propelled by the clean trumpet lines of Joe Ancowitz, then slows to the speed of a swoon at the chorus. Songs like “Hole in My Heart” and “Heavy Cream” are a molasses of moodiness; “Where the Animals Used to Play” is a delicate confection; “Missed the Day” a campfire lullaby; and “A Mermaid’s Tail” a jaunt into the as-yet-unexplored territory of nautical jazz. Each composition reveals yet another facet of Haltigan’s peculiar musical gem. And lyrically, she couldn’t be better. Haltigan turns a great phrase in almost every single song. Some favorites in both phrase-coining and delivery include “My heart floats on a little lifeboat…”, “…the big broom has swept me clean”, and the euphemism in “…when her father has taken the long way home.”

It’s good to see Haltigan expanding the part played by the Hooligans, as well as orchestrating some stellar collaborations. She’s learning the value of her counterparts, a true skill. First and most notably, in this album the Hooligans sing! I love the sound of these men’s rough voices in chorus, especially in “Things” and “Lost at Sea”. In an era where masculinity is either steroidal (Flo-Rida, Chris Brown) or completely effeminized (the Jonas Brothers, Hugh Jackman at the Oscars) it is striking and exhilarating to hear masculinity harmonized like it is here. The vocal cameos by Nathaniel Broekman, Troy Campbell, and Emmet Haltigan in “Things” are at once hilarious and endearing, I find myself listening to those few seconds over and over.


Haltigan’s collaborations with guest artists prove very strong indeed. The contrast between Haltigan’s low husk and S. Johanssen’s breathy heights create an expansive sense of space while bridging seamlessly to the trumpet /accordion and slide guitar lines above. John Foti’s work on piano and accordion bring nuance to Haltigan’s sound, and he approaches brilliance on prepared piano in “Things.” The jaunty, rollicking feel he brings takes the song to a better place.


As far as the ensemble’s performances go, percussionist Troy Campbell earns his keep on a pared-down kit in songs like “Virus”. Rumor has it he’s playing his lap here, and other songs on the album feature an ingenious range of percussive miscellanea: a Saudi Medjool date box and the pizza box from a late lunch at the studio in addition to his standard bucket and suitcase repertoire. Matthew Kloss on bass drives the songs like a long haul trucker – he’s relentless, whether switching gears or deftly working the brakes. We hope to hear his Jersey twang singing on the next album. On harmonica Emmet Haltigan howls like an alley cat and yearns like a jail bird; his mandolin work on “Where the Animals Used to Play” makes the song. Joe Ancowitz is cleaner and fiercer than we’ve heard before and his strong musicianship is a huge asset here. Lastly, we hear the recording as Nathaniel Broekman’s baby – he definitely deserves recognition for crafting this seamless beauty. His guitar work and vocal interjections are no less noteworthy, but perhaps he stands in the shadows more than he should? Even his stellar improvisation to Haltigan’s vocals on “Heavy Cream” seem like a mere hint of his full range. Julia Haltigan and the Hooligans play 11th St. Bar every Tuesday in March at 9:30 PM.


March 4, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment