When you take lumbering guitars that are as heavy as eighteen wheelers, old school country grit and focused, self-aware lyricism that isn’t shy about laying all the cards on the table when the time is right, you get a gold country single in the style of “In Hollywood,” the latest release from actor and songwriter Tom Proctor and his band The A-Listers. “In Hollywood” bears in its title the name of California’s most celebrated city and, in its music, the pristine polish of the state’s most worshipped pop singers, minus their overt aesthetical plasticity. It’s a juggernaut of a country song, and easily one of the most stylish tracks we’ve heard from Proctor to date.
Proctor’s vocals complement the sizzle of the guitars excellently, and at times the two become inseparable when breaking down the most prominent harmonies in the song. The bass rumbles with an incredulous angst that bleeds into the pace of the rest of the band, but the drums manage to bind everything together, even when it feels like the energy is more chaotic than a bar brawl. Proctor never lets the music become so feisty that we’re drawn away from his amazing voice, and his lyrical content engages us just as much as the freewheeling swing of the rhythm does.
Unlike a lot of country songs, which utilize a straightforward, somewhat analogue-inspired style of production, “In Hollywood” shows off its countless layers of texture and never once tries to smother its unambiguous tonality in pointless frills and fluff. Proctor is very confident here, and lays down a vocal track that has the look and feel of a live performance given before a large crowd of admiring fans. His energy is off the charts-infectious, and while he doesn’t dwarf the skills of The A-Listers, there’s never any question as to who the boss of the gang really is.
The rhythm of “In Hollywood” churns in stereo with impunity, tugging us left and right while Proctor remains centered amongst the sonic warfare he’s refereeing. Musically, he and his band have forged one of the most supple and richly evocative tones of any modern country group I’ve heard in the last few years. This single is devoid of the synthesized grooves and inarticulate lyricism that the current Nashville establishment has been making bank on during the 2010s, and in their place we find only earnest poetry skewed by rollicking string play.
You don’t have to be a big country music enthusiast to fall in love with what Tom Proctor has cooked up for us in his latest release, but for those of us who really appreciate a torrid twang when we come across it, “In Hollywood” is required listening. A solid single tailor-made for the puritans who have kept country alive through its roughest of rough patches, this track doesn’t live and die by the parameters of its style; it defines them solely through the uncaged creativity of its composer. Proctor is making just as big a mark on the music industry as he has the film world, and so far he’s been doing it one sweet song at a time.
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