Ah Holly Fam'ly
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Ah Holly Fam'ly

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Americana

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"Best New Bands"

Traditional folk ballads outfitted for an old Disney flick restored in gorgeous, hi-def color. Ah Holly Fam'ly's oddly beautiful songs are the musical equivalent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland: pretty, mercurial and kind of dark. Led by singer-guitarist Jeremy Faulkner-whose soft voice is one part Jeremy Enigk, one part fallen angel. The tall, lanky Faulkner resembles a camp counselor, a fact all the more apparent during Ah Holly Fam'ly's live shows, which find Faulkner steering a sound that's often aided by instrumentation outside the usual realm of pop music: singing saws, whistling and layered full-band harmonies. The whole experience is gorgeous and a bit disorienting; much like the jaded, unwritten children's movie this band was born to soundtrack. - Willamette Week


"favorite Portland albums of 2009"

Upon first hearing Reservoir, all of the reservations I had about Ah Holly Fam'ly and their feathery, breeze-borne, idiosyncratic chamber folk simply fell away. From the sweet pizzicato pining of opener "Young Veins" to the trilling "Kashmir"-by-way-of-early-Disney-cartoon-scores of album highpoint "Lucky Peak," this clan uses the eightfold possibilities of their woodwinds, strings, percussion, and male/female vocals not to overwhelm with the graceless force of overeager crescendos and blunt harmonies, but to bewitch with the soft touch of thoughtful arrangements and lightheaded counterpoint. Making delicate, even frail, music that retains a sense of fun, wonder, and emotional range is a difficult feat, but as Reservoir gradually reveals, not an impossible one. - Portland Mercury


"The Sound That Was, 2009"

In a music scene flush with fine folk music, nothing stood out in 2009 like Ah Holly Fam’ly’s second full-length. Ripe with male-female vocal harmonies; lush, airy arrangements; and leader Jeremy Faulkner’s Leonard Cohen-with-a-frog-in-his-throat voice, the octet creates a haunting world inhabited by mermaids, Vikings and bodies of water. - Willamette Week


"Introducing: Ah Holly Fam'ly"


Ah Holly Fam'ly are a product of the Sufjanization of American folk music. Though they're steeped in Appalachian folksong and tender traditionals, the strangely-named ensemble play with all the precision and decorum of a recital, and bring a sense of religious conviction to their music.

Ah Holly Fam'ly's music is built on strings and woodwinds, forsaking electric guitar, bass, and keyboards in favorite of cello, violin, clarinet, and saxophone. And, mostly, voices. Lead by married couple Jeremy Faulkner and Becky Dawson (the latter whom also records as Saw Whet), the eight-piece ensemble send sung parts cascading through their dexterously-scored songs; their near-choral voices joined so often in joyous harmony.

Faulkner and Dawson hail from rural Idaho, and moved to Portland to further their musical ambitions. Upon arriving, they found themselves playing in Luke Wyland's ace Au project (who released one of 2008's best 'obscure' records, Verbs).

Now, Ah Holly Fam'ly are introducing themselves to the world with their debut LP, Reservoir. Released last week on Portland imprint Lucky Madison, it's an album of much charm and even more humility; all its orchestrations never sounding anything but gentle and tender.

As songwriter, Faulkner possesses that rare quality of authoring lyrics that're both funny and sad at once; never moreso than in "Loneliest City," a survey of global melancholy that takes in the Antarctic perspective and dabbles in a sailor's lust for mermaids. - about.com


"Ah Holly Fam’ly: Reservoir [Album Review]"

On the rare occasion that you are given the honor of watching a band grow from humble and minimal beginnings to something more, it is something that must not be taken lightly. So it is with caution I approach this review of Reservoir as, buried somewhere in the midst of seemingly hundreds of boxes of albums awaiting recategorization is a slim jewel case by a band called Ah Holly Fam’ly. Xeroxed on simple paper is a cover that possesses a simple title: Ah Holly Fam’ly Sings Oh Holy Family.

Jump back a few years to rural Idaho, Moscow to be specific. And that’s where my introduction to what was then a very small band transpired. To say I ultimately forgot about Ah Holly Fam’ly would be an understatement, as they eventually vanished off my radar. But reintroduction came just about one month ago, when a copy of PDX Pop Now! 2009 landed on my desk; their “EIEIO” was a focal point of the release for me, and it was with great pleasure I heard Reservoir was soon to be on its way.

Reservoir, unlike the early incantation of Ah Holly Fam’ly, features quite a few members and plenty of production. This isn’t, after all, a DIY release. But the sensibilities that drew me to Ah Holly Fam’ly in the first place reside: the orchestrated instrumentation is Idaho-worthy, a porch-top indie folk fit for backwoods, straw hats, and farm fields, but intricate and educated. “Young Veins” opens Reservoirs on a high point, starting softly but ultimately changes time signatures and simultaneously increases in volume.

To say that this high point, so early on, is the pinnacle would be fallacious; this album is filled with pinnacles. “All Unfolding” follows “Young Veins” and its cool opening guitar riff leads smoothly into soft strings and flute, and it is here we first hear Jeremy Faulkner’s soft, raspy vocals cooing in our ear. “Army Of Light / Honeymoon” returns to the “Young Veins” style of vocals, female-fronted but with accompaniment; it too alters time for an impressive bridge. “Stranger Maker” and “Loneliest City” follow “All Unfolding” as album favorites.

Despite unique instrumentation (the combination of strings and woodwind in this particular sense is a rarity to begin with), it is Faulkner’s most unique vocal style that pinpoints the beginnings of Ah Holly Fam’ly’s greatness. But without the flutes and finger-plucked guitars, the violins and cellos, the occasionally distinct lack of percussion (”Year Of The Viking”) and vocalists compiled atop vocalists, Ah Holly Fam’ly would likely not warrant the amount of greatness I endow upon them… It is with complete honesty that I say these words: Reservoir is, without a doubt, a contender for a spot in my top 10 albums of 2009. - FensePost


"Ah Holly Fam’ly “All Unfolding”"

While it probably won’t provoke debates on par with the Replacements versus Beatles Let it Be battle, both folk based albums titled Reservoir that were released in 2009 are well worth music fans attention. First up was the well received debut album from British band Fanfarlo, and now comes the latest record from Portland-based Ah Holly Fam’ly. The eight piece band, which mixes in Sufjan Stevens-like pastoral folk arrangements, came up with a really strong album that floats easily through its 35 minute span. The vocal duties are split between the married couple of Becky Dawson and Jeremy Faulkner, with Faulkner’s horse croak making a strange bedfellow for Dawson’s (and others’) enchanting background vocals. On “All Unfolding” the strange, commanding juxtaposition is at the forefront as the vocals meander between the whimsical, tranquil tapestries that the band creates. The disc is a mellow affair, but the band is comprised of strong enough songwriters to easily keep the listener’s attention. Where it stands compared to Fanfaro is completely up to you. - Culture Bully


"Haunted Magic from the Underbelly of Hog Heaven"

Haunted forest melancholia. I just came up with that! Who wants to give me money? Tiny Mixtapes, perhaps (do they even pay)? Anyway, that's the most evocative phrase I could come up with to describe Portland, OR's Ah Holly Fam'ly. If you see them in Portland, "chamber-folk" wouldn't be a wholly inappropriate descriptor, as they've been known to incorporate strings, brass, winds, and a bevy of odd percussion into their live sets over there. I'm hesitant to use that phrase, though, because it sounds like something I wouldn't like all that much, and brother, I fucking LOVE Ah Holly Fam'ly.

When I first met Ah Holly Fam'ly, they were living in Moscow (former town name: "Hog Heaven", swear to God), a lovely small town in the Idaho panhandle. Moscow was the second stop in a Greyhound bus tour/soul journey that I had embarked upon from Ann Arbor back in May 2005. My roommates, who had just been on a similar adventure and stopped in Moscow, said that I would love it there ("it's like 1/8 the size of Ann Arbor!"), and it was on the way to Seattle, so why not? My roommates helped me book a show at a house, Le Cold Lab, that had previously held shows for then-respectable-but-increasingly-famous acts like Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart. I took from this that a) it was basically the only game in town, but also b), it was not a bad game.

Good perception, that. Despite a brief feeling of being hornswaggled as the Dog rolled into town (the outer edge of Moscow greets you with the same vile Big Box horror landscape as pretty much anywhere else in the United States, which never bodes well for a decent show despite the fact that it's like that, y'know, everywhere), Moscow ca. 2005 indeed held up to its lofty promise. The people I met during my brief stay, in fact, could have justified the entire cross-country journey even if the rest of the tour had been a bust. I will forever treasure memories of drinking "Red Pabst" at a jam-band bar with James Victor Yeary, or collabo-jam painting in a garage with Brad Watkins and talking about his "noise art" concepts, or improvising music in the living room of Le Cold Lab as James read excerpts from Ionesco over the top (a clip of the latter can be heard towards the end of "Tender Shades Of Fuchsia And Greige", a track from my album Vive La Fantastique! Avec Actual Birds And Friends. Sorry for the scummy self-promotion, but it's relevant, at least...?).

Just as much, I will always treasure seeing Ah Holly Fam'ly for the first time. Their music, performed as a 3-piece that night (the core duo of Jeremy Faulkner and Becky Dawson, plus regular drummer Whitney Menzel), was simple, understated, and gorgeous. Every bit of the music was intriguing, every touch necessary. They incorporated potential novelties like banjo and washboard in a way that stripped them of all novelty value; they sounded like they simply HAD to be there. I am typically one for grand, gaudy strokes in my live shows (if you've ever seen me play, or fuck, if you read this blog at all, this should come as no surprise), but everything in Ah Holly Fam'ly's music was so organically, subtly placed that night that it seemed to grow out of the ground, or perhaps gently sway down from the trees above. It was quiet, it was subtle, but Jesus, was it potent!

A year and change after this lovely experience, I moved to Portland, OR. My old roommates weren't too far off regarding how I'd feel about Moscow, but still, I didn't see myself LIVING there; Portland, however, felt like a second home at the time. Whenever I'd visit PDX, there were all these moments of beauty and serendipity that... well, that require a whole other think piece (I threw that phrase in to piss off one of my best friends in the world. You're welcome, Alx) to really explore. Suffice it to say, Portland had a leg up over Moscow.

Apparently, all of my friends in Moscow had felt the same way, because virtually all of them trickled into Portland around the same time as myself. I saw Jeremy from afar at Vashti Bunyan's first U.S. performance a month after I'd arrived, but wasn't convinced that it was actually him until I saw a blurb for an Ah Holly Fam'ly show in the Portland Mercury the following week. I became reacquainted with the band at said show, at which point I found out that James and Brad were also moving to Portland. Wow! Half the people I wanted to be with in this world were going to be living in the same city. This was going to be great!

Well, it was and wasn't. That's another story. What WAS great was getting to see Ah Holly Fam'ly on a semi-regular basis. For awhile, they seemed to get better, more transcendent, with every show. They had, for most of these shows, swelled into a quintet (joined by Jeff Diteman and Morgan Hobart), but their sound, despite being mostly acoustic, sounded like that of a band twice their size. Even then, the grandiosity of their arrangements was always tempered by an almost crushing intimacy: I remember opening a beer can during a song once, and feeling like I had opened up a small black hole for ten seconds. Full, rapt attention is almost a prerequisite here, or at least, it should be. When my then-girlfriend and I started dating, they were one of two bands I bullied her into seeing that we both agreed were beyond excellent (which is saying something, given that she often thinks I'm a total 'tard about music).

When I moved back to Ann Arbor in the fall of 2007, The Moscow expat crew were almost definitely the first thing I missed about Portland. Sure, there's plenty of other great stuff about Portland, not much of it is magical. I'm pretty sure the music of Ah Holly Fam'ly is magical.

Before I moved, I offered to release an album for the band. Jeremy sent me an excellent recording entitled Your Body Will Become An Anchor, which circumstance prevented me from ever putting out, which WOULD be a goddamn crime against nature were it not currently available on CD through their website and at shows. Good news. Even better: this year, the good folk at Portland's Lucky Madison label have had the good sense to release their new album, "Reservoir", on CD and vinyl, finally immortalizing the band on God's chosen format. I would've loved to have the honor of same, but I just didn't have the hustle... still, who cares? I don't give a shit, and neither should you. Regardless of who put this record out, you should get it into your life ASAP. It's a damn stunner. The arrangements, the harmonies, the melodies, the lyrics... all this shit is almost eerily spot-on in a way that even a cynical, bent-eared idiot like myself can appreciate as simply GORGEOUS. It's like looking out over the Columbia Gorge or something... only a monumentally fucked person, I think, could experience this and not think it's lovely.

Okay, now I'm getting pushy, and yeah, I may be letting my critical guard fall to the wayside a LITTLE bit. Read: biased. Yes, it's true (full disclosure!!!): I do think of the people in this band as my friends. When Jeff's other band, the lovers duo The Areyoumadatme?s (with relatively recent Fam'ly addition Amelia Harnas), came through Ann Arbor this summer, they thoughtfully brought me a very nice bottle of Portland IPA even though they barely got paid to play; when Jeremy and Becky came through on tour earlier this week (with Ryne from Ohioan and their friend Nathan playing pick-up quite ably, an alternate version of the band made necesary given the economic realities of touring, which are not kind to what has swelled in Portland to an octet), I was just as happy to see them and chat with them as I was to actually see them play. If you choose to read all that, though, as reason to disregard my endorsement, you're only fucking yourself. - FM Dust


"This Old House"

The prize for this self-preservation is Reservoir, their exceptionally fine-hewed second album. Here, they augment New Weird America with old European chamber music. Their sound is poised and ghostly—like a dilapidated house resting on a solid foundation of sudden tempo changes. By combining the stately and the strange, Ah Holly Fam'ly turn Reservoir into an extension of the group's core indie-folk influences. - Portland Mercury


"Ah Holly Fam’ly: Your Body Will Become An Anchor"

Ah Holly Fam’ly’s music is textural, thick, and laden with lots of disparate, delicate acoustics that build into a high and mighty wall of sound. No singing voice is without idiosyncracy or humanity. Nothing is cloying here, nothing forced. There’s a slew of instruments — woodwinds, cellos, guitars, banjos, percussion, theremin (saw?) — none overshadowing or upstaging the other. They form a whole that fulfills me in a way only a family can. That is, imperfectly — but warmly, full of love and are. - Naturalismo


"You Should Know"

Originally from Idaho, Portland transplants Ah Holly Fam'ly create a rustic brand of folk laced with infectious melodies and organic instrumentation. While the Sufjan-ish pastoral folk arrangements on their new album Reservoir are surely lovely, the band's true strength is in its dueling girl/guy harmonies. It's surprising that a band that creates such lushly sparse music is actually an eight-piece, but if you listen closely you'll notice all those tiny details. The album is full of subtle layers and textures that enhance Ah Holly Fam'ly's sound without becoming distracting. Married couple Becky Dawson and Jeremy Faulkner share the vocal duties. While Dawson's vocals are just plain pretty, Faulkner's is intriguingly brittle. It waivers and cracks and provides a wonderful contrast in comparison to Dawson's sultry lull. What makes Reservoir so good is its worn-in feel. It's like your favorite blanket on an overcast day or an old thrift-store photograph you've never seen but feels so familiar. - Captain Obvious


"Band of the Week"

There are parts of rural Idaho that sound exactly like this record. I’m listening to Ah Holly Fam’ly’s, Reservoir, and it sounds really, really full and yet spacious at the same time. Idahoan/Portland transplants, Becky Dawson, Jeremy Faulkner, and company paint a picture of their homeland that sounds exactly like how a drive through Idaho can feel. It’s gorgeous! This album is filled with strings, and flutes, and soft, beautifully executed harmonies. The troupe’s meticulously arranged vocals can put you at ease in one breath and make you feel so forlorn in the next. Reservoir sounds one part folk record, with some hillsy M. Ward and Sufjan Stevens influence mixed in as well.

The albums lead track, “Young Veins”, starts with a good mixture of male/female voices blending together before the song takes on a more playful, upbeat feel when the drums come in. “Loneliest City” is a song where two ladies voices are singing ahh’s together, then swirl around in ooh’s, while beautifully finger picked acoustics and violins swoop in, amidst a pattern of vocals flooding in on the the verse, which just makes you start nodding your head to the sound.

This is a record for fans of early Saturday morning bike rides, or lazy Sundays drives. It is a fundamentally classic folk record at its core, dovetailed with an undeniably fresh approach. Like Fleet Foxes, Horse Feathers, and other contemporaries whom have traveled back in time to reinvent a sound from the past, Ah Holly Fam’ly’s new record is a welcome sound to both Portland and anyone who’s ever been through Idaho. - Pet Marmoset


"Ah Holly Fam’ly – Reservoir"

Eight-piece, folksy band Ah Holly Fam’ly is able to accomplish just that with their album Reservoir. An album with equal parts strings, open-hearted arrangements and diverse instrumentalists that it all comes off as one big sweep of amazement.

“Lucky Peak” twirls around an opening that Sufjan Stevens must have dreamed of but never got around to writing before the endearing touches of flutes, violins and a chugging bass line lead the duo’s charming singing. A kaleidoscope of sounds that never comes undone, it places you in the middle of a soaring plain with nothing but fields of grass to run through and the sun’s shining beams to bask in. These kinds of feelings are paramount on an album that never loses any of its care for special touches of gleam and shine. “All Unfolding” is a fine example with the guitar’s slow strum accompanying the singer’s foil, before it dwells into a place far and away; originally captured, tenderly performed and sweetly adorned, it’s nothing but greatness. - Delusions of Adequacy


"PDX Beats: Ah Holly Fam’ly"

nd then there are bands that demonstrate the fallacy of the classical/folk chasm by effortlessly straddling it with their music. Bands like Portland octet Ah Holly Fam’ly…well, no, there aren’t really any bands like Ah Holly Fam’ly, whose idiosyncrasies are too genuine to be copied or cribbed. But they do throw a light on the continuity between folk and classical forms, what with an instrumentation marked by flutes, strings and vocal harmonies that would be just as welcome in chamber concert setting as a certain kind of backyard, campfire-lit sing-along. Add to that sound echoes of early Disney soundtracks (I can’t hear Ah Holly Fam’ly’s song “EIEIO” without picturing Snow White and the Dwarves whistling it while they work) and the perplexingly gossamer voice of primary songwriter Jeremy Faulkner and you get something like this, a track called “Lucky Peak,”the highpoint (bam!) of their tremendous 2009 album Reservoir which was itself an underheard highlight of the musical year. - Northwest Folklife


"Ah Holly Fam’ly – Reservoir"

Their gentle, spare style brings to mind some long-forgotten late ‘60s folk music collective mixed up with the exquisitely arranged strings and woodwinds of newer acts like Sufjan Stevens and Vetiver. For an era-spanning sound, it’s a refreshingly low-key affair. Jeremy Faulkner’s whispery vocals and slightly warped lyrics call to mind Devendra Banhart’s brand of West Coast folk minus the aggressive weirdness, while the lilting male-female harmonies call to mind hippie staples like The Mamas and The Papas and early Fairport Convention.

Reservoir opens with the purr of “Young Veins,” drifting along on softly strummed strings and Becky Dawson’s smoothly alluring lead vocal before reaching a reserved but energetic swell of orchestration around the three-quarter mark. The next track, “All Unfolding,” finds Dawson leading a truly striking background vocal arrangement as Faulkner murmurs floral metaphors and sly alliteration (“All unfolding / Sure, it will shrivel / Shaft, its petals”). The ambitious “Army of Light/Honeymoon” rides a waltz-like beat through a strange soundscape of violins and woodwinds, and then fades into the hypnotic “Stranger Maker,” a fine showcase for Ah Holly Fam’ly’s flair for spooky/pretty imagery: “Better off on the forest floor / than the thunder above the thorns”.

The Sufjan influence comes to the fore on “Lucky Peak,” a song whose trilling reeds and mellow harmonies could almost pass for a forgotten track from the Illinois sessions. But the album’s real focal point emerges with “Loneliest City,” a mesmerizing number with an upbeat arrangement and harmonizing that belies songwriting ranging from melancholy (“What’s the loneliest city in the world? / Spin a globe around / Put your finger down and it’s there”) to outright odd (“We brought these beasts across the seas / While celebrating sex with mermaids / We would marry fish if we could”). While it’s not an album for everybody – Faulkner’s unorthodox vocals in particular seem likely to turn off certain segments – Reservoir is one of the more accomplished entries in the recent alt-folk canon, a dreamy, self-assured font of creative energy. Cultish connotations aside, this is one fully functional Fam’ly. - Made Loud


"Ah Holly Fam'ly"

"The ghosts of the outfit's old Idaho home are sure as hell puttin' up a fight here, giving us jangly Americana that's restrained as the quiet plains but as dense and winding as the wind. ...see for yourself, you'll soon be wooed by the wallowing saws and countrified lamentations." - Local Cut


"Ah Holly Fam'ly"

"When Ah Holly Fam'ly reaches a peak and all harmonies are a go, man they take you places." - Ten Second Buzz


"Ah Holly Fam'ly"

"Ah Holly Fam'ly are almost an Americana Beirut, taking something wholly organic and twisting it, turning it, pushing the envelope for a fresh take on experimental roots music. It's "folktronica," sure, but better arranged and more rootsy." - Portland Mercury


"Ah Holly Fam'ly"

"...the layered acoustic pop of Ah Holly Fam'ly, fantastic on record, is rumored to be twice as flooring in person." - Willamette Week


"Best Songs of 2009"

"Something magic (and surprisingly robust) in the mix of Jeremy Faulkner's geriatric vocals and his backing ladies' sashay. All that baroque flutey stuff has almost got some swing. Hypnotic." - Said the Gramophone


Discography

{Albums}
Reservoir - Lucky Madison 2009

{EPs}
Your Body Will Become an Anchor - self released 2007
Sings "Oh Holy Family" - self released 2006

{Compilations}
"EIEIO" - PDX Pop Now 2009

Photos

Bio

Ah Holly Fam'ly formed in the culturally sparse and desperate landscapes of rural Idaho, before packing up for their current home of Portland, Oregon. Fluctuating between an 8-piece orchestra and its current incarnation as a one-man touring machine which puts Jeremy Lee Faulkner's fingerstyle guitar and raspy vocals front-and-center, Ah Holly Fam'ly brings a level of beauty and mastery to the stage seldom seen by pop audiences. "Reservoir," the bands debut record for Lucky Madison, flirts with the memories of youth, where man-made bodies of water built for agriculture and industry became places of recreation. At once fragile and overwhelming, the sophisticated avant folk chamber pop of Ah Holly Fam'ly courses a steady path on Reservoir, a place where the past meets the present, where familiarity is concealed by alienation, a sound that hearkens back to the rural Appalachian folk of yesterday, and the avant folk experimentalism of today.