HOLLY BROOK – Like Blood Like Honey
(2006 Machine Shop/Warner Brothers)
I interviewed Mazomanie native Holly Brook for the premier edition of Rick’s Café back in December of 2002. There was little doubt then, although she was just seventeen, that she would be a star. In 2003 she left school, risking everything to move to Los Angeles and make that dream a reality. It didn’t take long for things to happen.
Enter engineer and producer Jon Ingoldsby. He and Brook hit it off immediately and he became much more than a producer, taking a personal interest in Brook that extends to her songwriting. Ingolsby has had a hand in recordings by Elton John and Madonna, winning an engineering Grammy in 1999 for Ray of Light, and a host of others, including a release by Donna de Lory, one of Madonna’s backup singers. De Lory had teamed up with cellist Cameron Stone and Ingoldsby brought him to this recording, a very fortuitous move indeed as Stone’s cello graces many of the tracks, adding gravity to the already weighty subject matter.
Brook’s demos found their way into the hands of the band Linkin’ Park and she soon became the first artist signed to their new Warner Brothers subsidiary, Machine Shop Records. She was called on to add backing vocals to Linkin’ Park offshoot Fort Minor’s “Where’d You Go,” which peaked at number five, is currently number four on the MTV2 video chart and helped land her on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last month. She also toured with the band.
Like Blood Like Honey is Brook’s first album though she recorded three others along with her mother Candace Krietlow as the duo Heartwood. LBLH has received numerous trade reviews including raves from Performing Songwriter and even People.
The praise is warranted; LBLH is a terrific album, one steeped in so much maturity, wisdom and pain that it seems impossible that it came from the heart of a twenty-year-old. The basic tracks were recorded live in the studio and much of what you get is what went down. In fact, Brooks was working with other producers who wanted to apply too much production to her work. She eventually shunned this approach for the stripped-down honesty that she and Ingoldsby envisioned for her music. Brooks’ vocals are breathtakingly sincere as she emotes while accompanying herself on piano and occasionally guitar. Ingoldsby adds guitars, Stone adds cello and the famed drummer Joey Waronker also performs on this disc..
If you think this is mass-appeal pop, forget it. The opening track, “Giving It Up For You,” sets that straight in a real hurry. “Well I take a lot of medicine / I don’t really need / I was drinking at eleven / Getting high at seventeen.” Though the track may seem directed at a person it’s actually about her relationship with music.
The rest of the album is rife with other introspective observations. “What I Wouldn’t Give” recounts the period in her life when she had just moved to L.A., was living with an abusive drug user and being a lonely, frightened teenager in the mega-tropolis that is the City of Angels. The chorus is hauntingly uplifting: “What I wouldn’t give just to forget / What I wouldn’t give to get some rest / So I can remember to live again / I want to live again.” The fact that she stuck it out to get to this point is an inspiring achievement.
“Saturdays,” written out of sheer boredom, and the title track mix in some Carol King elements, once again hinting at the broad appeal of which Brook is capable. “Curious” has also proven a fan favorite, as sparse as Brook gets: “I’m so damn curious to know / And there are too many unanswered questions / That I hold onto…like you.” Stone gets his moment to shine brightest on “All Will Be Forgotten,” a gorgeous cello-and-voice ballad.
Like Blood Like Honey is one of the most starkly moving and darkly beautiful albums you’re likely to hear, even from established artists with much more experience and many more years behind them. Though the music primarily recalls Sarah McLachlan, Brooks is on a path to a far higher summit on the order of her idol Joni Mitchell. There is little doubt that she’ll get there.