Bassist William Pawley has played in a number of area bands and brings years of experience to Rod Holt & the Fractured Souls, one of a few original bands playing in Southwest Georgia. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — After giving a visitor a sneak-peak, 13-song mini-concert during a recent rehearsal, Rod Holt took a shot at describing his and his band the Fractured Souls’ sound.
“I guess we’re still looking for our sound,” singer/songwriter Holt said. “I don’t think you can put us in any one pile; we’re all over the place. We’re always evolving.
“We take a little bit here and a little bit there — some country, rock, soul, R&B — kind of take the whole Americana melting pot and bring it all together.”
Fractured Souls drummer Bill Denson offers a simpler take.
“We sound like everything we listen to,” he said.
Holt and the Souls are a walking time machine of Albany-area music, all four band members having spent decades playing for any number of bands. That they found each other this late into their musical lives makes their coming together even more serendipitous.
“I wrote some songs and decided to record them with folks I know: (Fractured Souls lead guitarist) Kevin (O’Lear), Ed McRee, Evan Barber and Bubba Hall,” Holt said. “Kevin knew Bill (Denson), and Bill knew (bassist) William (Pawley), and we all just kind of ended up talking about playing together. We discovered pretty quickly that there was something there.”
“It was real organic,” the guitarist said.
Holt and the Souls didn’t spend a whole lot of time discussing and refining their sound. He gave the band members copies of the album of originals he’d recorded at McRee’s Albany Recording Studio, and within days they were adding their own little touches to the songs. A few gigs at Harvest Moon and the Oglethorpe Lounge in Albany prepared them for their first big outing, this weekend’s River Oak Music and Arts Festival in Geneva, Ala.
“We’re excited about getting out and playing our songs in that kind of setting,” Holt, who played in bands throughout the ’80s and ’90s before walking away from music for almost a decade, said. “There just aren’t many bands in this area playing original music. … I’d say us and Evan Barber & the Dead Gamblers may be the only ones. We just didn’t want to get into a cover band, playing the same old stuff.”
Not that there are tons of venues for original musicians to showcase their music.
“This area is very limited in places to play,” said Denson, who will mark 50 years of drumming this January. “That’s especially true of bands playing original music. All of us were excited about the possibility of playing new songs, songs that we could help make our own. Rod gave us that opportunity.”
Holt and the Fractured Souls offer proof of their versatility during the recent rehearsal at Denson’s home studio. Songs like the rollicking “Lonely,” the lovely ballad “Speak My Mind,” the Wilco-esque “Sunday” and “Adios,” which brings to mind the Refreshments, allow each player moments in the spotlight. (Their only cover, The Band’s “The Weight,” incidentally, is exceptional.) That may be where Holt and the Souls have their biggest advantage: Each musician takes and cedes the spotlight seamlessly.
Given the band members’ separate pedigrees, their interplay is not unusual.
Except for the 21 years he spent “mostly playing for Uncle Sam” in the U.S. Navy, Pawley has been a fixture on the local scene, playing with such bands as Simon Pure, The Showmen, Cause and Effect, and Little Whiskey River. O’Lear, too, has a lengthy resume, having played with Tres Hombres, the Smoking OPs and currently with the Evergreen Family Band.
Denson and Holt have knocked around in the local and regional trenches as well, leaving the band with perhaps the most impressive and extensive musical background in all of Southwest Georgia.
“Everyone needs a creative outlet,” Pawley said. “The priority with this band is fun. Of course, a close second is the opportunity to make a little extra money.”
After this weekend’s River Oak gig, Holt and the Fractured Souls are planning an album release party. They’re ready to get that one out of the way so they can move on to the next one.
“The original idea was to get something out there that, 20 years from now, my kids can listen to and say ‘That’s my dad,’” Holt said. “But we’ve already got enough material to do a second album. We’re ready to move forward.”
The first River Oak Music and Arts Festival, which starts today at the River Oaks Golf Course, will feature a headliner with Albany ties. Along with Keith Anderson, Albany-raised Stokes Nielson and his band The Lost Trailers top the two-day festival’s bill. The festival, sponsored by Albany’s Threeforty: A Creative Group, will also feature Barber and the Gamblers, The Springs, Steffen Hughes, The Tony Brook Band, The Wild Fruit, the Neil Clayton band and County Band 440.
Holt and the Fractured Souls play Saturday at 2 p.m.
Tickets and information are available by calling (334) 684-6190 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.