Part of the magic of Holland Hopson’s performances lies in the mystery of just how much he has planned out beforehand and what’s being extemporized. He is a rapt listener to his own performances, nuancing each refrain’s iteration with distinctive stresses, pitch bends, additions, and deletions. He began with a piece he used on the BAMA DIY concert reviewed in August, and yet it came off as freshly conceived and decidedly different, as if he’d made it up on the spot.
His set consisted of eight songs. Highlights included Hopson’s intense lament of forbidden queer love, the ballad “Laurel Cove,” and his hazy and weary “Over Yonder’s Ocean,” which yearned for a beautiful heaven “where the sun swings lowest over yonder’s ocean.”Hopson’s vocals were resonant and full of character. He offered his audience a warm, joking presence in between songs and was a consummate storyteller throughout.
And, a new and wonderful discovery for this reviewer, Holland Hopson set his haunting vocals about a desolate landscape with “no road lead[ing] straight home” against layers of clawhammer banjo woven together via computer processing and a foot pedal.