Hearing Aide: Holly Bowling ‘Live at the Old Church’

The mark of an incredible jam band performance is the groups’ ability to be relentlessly creative. When four or five members work in unison to create, explore and build, we are gifted with a sonic adventure filled with memorable moments that can last a lifetime. It’s something only a gifted few can accomplish together. But for one person to achieve this – a full bodied musical excursion with moving parts and emotion – is the mark of a true virtuoso. Holly Bowling does just this as she blesses us with one of the most exotic ideas of what a cover could be, cultivating years of music and experience into one instrument, one voice, in one night.

She has finally released her first ever live album, which is odd considering her track record of live performances and the genre she has based herself in, but it was absolutely worth the wait. Read our past articles about Holly and her performances to get a better idea of her impressive background and experience.

Over the course of two and a half hours, we hear her interpretation of well known Grateful Dead and Phish songs, using nothing but her imagination and a stupendously recorded grand piano which was all complimented by the crisp acoustics of The Old Church Concert Hall in Portland, OR. Her ability to explore different emotions and attitudes is astounding. She flows effortlessly through “Mountains in the Mist,” emulating Phish’s airy jam with appropriate flair, courtesy to her classical background. But counter to her upbringing, she absolutely nails energetic and experimental tracks like “Slipknot! / Franklin’s Tower” and “Let It Grow.” Her relentless builds and solos are infectious and memorable. 

The album is hard to sum up. Everyone will take away something different from it, as is the case from any live show. What is arguably most impressive is her ability to catch the listeners ear from minute to minute and track to track. One instrument covering one style of music is bound to become monotonous, but Bowling does the impossible and tours audiences through her interpretation of these pivotal tracks. 

Bowling will continue to share her prowess with fans in a number of upcoming shows including, The Linda WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio in Albany, on September 11, Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan on September 14, and the Ghost Light: Borderland Music Festival in East Aurora on September 22. The album is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Key Tracks: Mountains in the Mist, Slipknot! / Franklin’s Tower, Let it Grow.