Deborah Holland,
The Book of Survival
(Gadfly, 1999)

I was immediately pulled into Deborah Holland's new solo CD, The Book of Survival, by her enticing voice. Here, I thought, is someone whose view of the universe I can trust; there's just something believable about the frankness of her singing. While the music on this CD kept me company on the long commute back and forth from school, closer attention revealed a few things that kept The Book of Survival from being a total hit.

The first song, "Weak at Heart," is a pleasing combination of Holland's lovely voice and fingered guitar. The lyrics, though, left me wanting something more. All too often, Holland resorts to cliched expressions, and her choice of words in the chorus --"falling in every sentimental trap / no matter if it's real or if it's crap" -- just don't work.

"Kids with Guns" is a rhythmic little ditty about the state of affairs in the world today; Holland presents it with a tongue-in-cheek playfulness that keeps it from being too heavy. "Faded Red Car," thank goodness, isn't a typical love song -- Holland's observations are quirky, and the slide guitar adds a twangy country slant to the song.

The Book of Survival, while not at the top of my favorites list, is a solid solo outing from Holland, who has already established herself in the music biz as the lead singer and songwriter of Animal Logic. Most of these songs are "surface level"; if Holland's purpose was to keep things from getting too deep, then she's succeeded. But Holland's voice is soothing and honest, and the musical arrangements are tight. This CD will definitely find a place in my rotation for commuting, for its pleasure as background music.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

Buy The Book of Survival from