Daddy B. Nice's #47 ranked Southern Soul Artist
Composed by Avail Hollywood
November 22, 2014: Re-Posted from Daddy B Nice's NEW CD REVIEWS:
January 19, 2014: TWIN PICK
AVAIL HOLLYWOOD: Country Road (Nlightn) and... THE BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD (Nlightn) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul heaven.
For every hundred young Southern Soul recording artists with the brilliant creative talent of--say--a Luther Lackey (who recently quit performing), there may be one artist with the down-to-earth grit, want-to, and business acumen to succeed and make a bona fide career. The creativity may not even be apparent at first. What counts for more is the artist's determination to go the "extra mile," to shake off the deflating criticism, adapt, get better and--above all--keep knocking on doors and working phones (the hardest thing in the world for the typical young artist).
Avail Hollywood is that one in a hundred. In the recently-posted 2013 Southern Soul Music Awards, under the category "Hardest-Touring Crowd-Pleasers," your Daddy B. Nice noted:
Hardest-touring artists can be broken down by generations--1st gen (B.B. King), 2nd gen (Mel Waiters), 3rd gen (T.K. Soul).
What I almost added but didn't was:
4th gen (Avail Hollywood).
The young Texarkana native has blazed a new chitlin' circuit path through towns and hamlets rarely visited by even the most traveled veterans of Southern Soul. And yet, Hollywood (aka Christopher Estell, born 1983) made the awards in a more important category. His new CD Country Road (released in September '12) was a finalist for "Best CD" of the year.
The title tune, "Country Road," is replete with southern soul savvy, arranging and producing acumen, and Avail's unusual, pirouetting, closer-to-talking-than-singing vocal style.
Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Country Road" while you read.
Assisted by special effects and a thumping keyboard note that recalls Senator Jones' backing track to Mz. B's "My Name Is $$$$"--one of many references to southern soul lore--Avail has the following conversation with his significant other:
Hey, baby. Baby, what you doing?
I'm just going to pull over right here.
No, you just can't pull over on this country road like this.
What are you? Scared or something?
What if the sheriff come through?
I know the sheriff....
Avail's gal, of course, wins the argument, while Avail goes on to reference fellow young Southern Soul "guns" LaMorris Williams and Chris Ivy. Younger-generation stars Black Zack ("Sho' Wasn't Me" rap/remix) and Certified Slim contribute to the album (Certified Slim on “Beat It Up,”
Black Zack on “Club In The Woods”) befitting Hollywood's axis of influence. All this for a native of Texarkana, Texas, not exactly on the "beaten track," even by chitlin' circuit standards.
Beyond the tentative single “Don’t Leave Me,” Hollywood's first album, The Young Gunn of Southern Soul (2009), had little to define Avail Hollywood but swagger. But Hollywood came back with a vengeance, notching a signature single, "Drinking Again," on the album of the same name in 2011.
Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Drinking Again" on YouTube while you read.
Hollywood's Country Road represents another huge advance, combining the stellar arranging and producing skills of DRINKING AGAIN with an unprecedented songwriting bonanza: the anthem-like, stepping song, "Anniversary," the country-themed "Club In Da Woods," the touching "Trying Not To Break Up" and the chugging "Halle Berry," among others.
Meanwhile, in 2013, Hollywood was putting out more classy-sounding singles: the uptempo, cajun-themed Creole Shuffle and the typically flamboyant but painstakingly-produced "Fatal Attraction."
So it shouldn't come as such a surprise to open a CD entitled THE BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD (NlightN, 2014) and find an astounding quantity of music--and yet it does. Behind our backs, so to speak, this young star has accumulated quite a catalog. The contents include:
Club In Tha Woods
One Man's Trash
Let's Get Raw
Make The Bed Rock
Don't Leave Me
Beat It Up
Ima' Give It To You
Forever & Always
Trying Not To Break Up
Christopher Estell does all the writing, arranging and producing. Pete Peterson of Desert Sounds Records, himself a 2012 Southern Soul Music Awards arranger/producer, is listed as “project coordinator” on the COUNTRY ROAD CD and appears to be collaborating with Hollywood on distribution through Select-O-Hits.
Is Hollywood an acquired taste? Perhaps, for the older generation. He certainly has made inroads with the younger audience. But even the traditional r&b crowd, listening to the seamless sequence of well-written, well-sung, well-produced songs gracing THE BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD, will come away with a genuine respect for this talented AND ambitious young performer.
--Daddy B. Nice
Read Daddy B. Nice’s Artist Guide to Avail Hollywood
Listen to Avail Hollywood & Black Zack singing "Club In Da Woods" on YouTube.
Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Country Road" on YouTube.
Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Fatal Attraction" on YouTube.
Sample/Buy Avail Hollywood's Country Road at CD Baby.
February 1, 2014:
CHART CLIMBERS 2014!:
Avail Hollywood and his hit Southern Soul single "Drinking Again" climbs from #61 to #47 on Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 21st Century Southern Soul Artist Countdown.
Go to the complete library of artist guides for Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Countdown: 21st Century Southern Soul Artists
January 26, 2014: NEW REVIEW!
See Daddy B. Nice's new five-star "southern soul heaven" review of Avail Hollywood's COUNTRY ROAD and BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD CD's.
September 8, 2012: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample or Buy Avail Hollywood's new bargain-priced Country Road CD.
Daddy B. Nice's Original Critique:
Avail Hollywood fits the stereotype of the musician on the make. That's what happens when the hype gets a little too far ahead of the music. However, when Bigg Robb, one of Avail Hollywood's mentors, first came on the scene, he too was perceived to have a well-oiled talent for self-promotion.
Robb's first couple of albums didn't have a lot to do with Southern Soul music, but Bigg Robb's drive and determination, not to mention his willingness to absorb and change his musical perspective, catapulted him into the front ranks of Southern Soul.
Avail Hollywood is very much in the same, strong mold. Faced with daunting criticism from some quarters for his uneven debut album, which in his typically aggressive style he called The Young Gunn Of Southern Soul, Hollywood didn't shrink into the woodwork. There was no quit in him.
Less than a year later, he came back with an even stronger sophomore album--Drinking Again--that not only marked a sizable leap forward in material and execution but seized the spotlight with a surprisingly mature and soulful bid for a Southern Soul classic: "Drinking Again."
"Drinking Again" has few antecedents in Southern Soul or any other genre. The slow, measured tempo marks it as a ballad. The strong, clear bass line and slick, shimmering arrangement suggest a pedigree in new age jazz or pop-slash-funk.
But the intangibles of the song signify that Avail Hollywood has gone to a well deeper and more pristine than any of the mainstream genres of the last few decades. Indeed, the one song that "Drinking Again" resembles more than any other is Ms. Jody's priceless and equally idiosyncratic ballad, "Your Dog Is Killing My Cat," which also came out of nowhere while hitting the bullseye of authentic Southern Soul.
Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Drinking Again" on YouTube while you read.
"I've been in this club
And I said I wasn't
Going to be drinking.
Now I'm stumbling
All over this bar
With a dumb look on my face."
The opening stanzas of Drinking Again" constitute one of the most original beginnings by any composer in contemporary soul music. There's no self-promotion here. And there's no fronting either, even of the subtle kind. This is a singer intent on getting to the heart of the matter.
The second stanza is even better, and even more defining.
"That's how it is
When you're drinking
A lot of Hennessy.
Say you lost a girl,
Or say you lost your man."
The Hennessy-drinking is one of the few salient Southern Soul signposts. But the greater impact of the couplet is to extend the autobiographical and confessional thrust of the lyrics. The stage is set quickly, and already "Drinking Again" is more grounded, more focused and impactful than dozens of Southern Soul songs on the same topic.
Then comes the third stanza, which anyone who listens to the song for the first time remembers as the song's distinguishing theme. The Alcholics Anonymous reference jumps out from the rest of the words:
"And now you're in rehab,
Like 'Hi, my name is Hollywood,
And I'm an alcholic.'
You got me drinking again."
Compare, for instance, the lyrics to Avail Hollywood's "Drinking Again" to T. K. Soul's "Rehab." The latter is a Southern Soul mainstay, a former Daddy B. Nice # 1 Southern Soul Single of the year. As good as it is, though, T. K. Soul's lyrics have nowhere near the searing luminosity of Hollywood's "Drinking Again."
As a vocalist, Avail Hollywood already has a set of tools in his toolbox that would be the envy of any "young gun" starting out in contemporary R&B. His voice-over at the beginning of "Drinking Again" is chitlin' circuit-certified.
His distinctive tenor is instantly identifiable, not quite like anyone else on the scene--lyrical, melodic, crystal-clear. When he harmonizes with himself, the results are impressive. He can extend notes with the best technical singers, yet slur into a speaking voice at the most apt moments.
His producing skills are also substantial. The echoing effect at the end of key phrases is an important detail. The programming isn't "live"--the only thing that could make the song better--but the tinkling, up-and-down runs of the keyboard and the extensive horn charts are as full and polished as you'll hear on the majority of Southern Soul Singles.
Finally, the song is compressed. Hollywood avoids the too-common pitfall of dragging the song through an extended five minute length. He keeps it short and sweet, and--like all catchy music--"Drinking Again" flies by, begging to be played again.
Sample or Buy Avail Hollywood MP3's on I-Tunes.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Avail Hollywood
Christopher Estell, aka Avail Hollywood, was born July 24, 1983 in Texarkana, Texas. His father, Collins Estell, was a professional guitarist (R&B and gospel), and two sisters, Loraine and Donna, were gospel singers.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"And now you're in rehab,
AVAIL HOLLYWOOD: Drinking Again (Nlightn) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.Avail Hollywood's second CD, Drinking Again, is a huge step forward. Gone are the amateurish hiphop conventions, shaky synth-enhanced vocals and immature hype of his debut disc (2010).
Two things are instantly clear listening to the disc's first track, "One Man's Trash." Hollywood's ambition and determination are still in full force, but now they're channeled through a disciplined familiarity with the Southern Soul idiom.
However, Hollywood makes a crucial mistake in starting off the CD with a song derived almost entirely from Jeff Floyd's "Lock My Door," which itself was modeled on Floyd's signature hit, "I Found Love (On A Lonely Highway)." Even the horn arrangement on Avail's "One Man's Trash" reiterates "Lock My Door."
If the musical power surpassed the Jeff Floyd original, Hollywood might have succeeded. Unfortunately, Jeff Floyd's "Lock My Door" will surface in the minds of most listeners versed in contemporary Southern Soul.
But if its derivation sabotages "One Man's Trash," "Drinking Again"--the album's second and title track--more than compensates. Original, with a unique arrangement and lead vocal, "Drinking Again" should have already been a hit and still may become one.
Overshadowed by Mel Waiter's "When You Get Drunk," which was released at the same time earlier this year, Hollywood's ballad "Drinking Again" actually trumps the Waiters' song in emotional power.
Here's an excerpt from--
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review For. . .
1. "Drinking Again"------------Avail Hollywood
One of two anti-drinking songs to debut in a February overflowing with new music. The other is Mel Waiters' "When You Get Drunk." Together, they make nice bookends around a subject that seldom gets discussed in Southern Soul.
Avail Hollywood's outing is the more compelling because it memorializes a young musician blossoming into a true artist, marshalling an intensity and focus he hadn't quite mastered on his debut, The Young Gunn Of Southern Soul, reviewed here last year.
All great music traces back to life moments of deep pain, and "Drinking Again" qualifies. The opening lines make it clear and unambiguous:
"I've been in this club
And I said I wasn't gonna be drinking.
Now I'm stumbling over to this bar
With a dumb look on my face.
That's how it is
When you're drinking a lot of Hennessey,
Say you lost your girl,
Or say you lost your man.
And now you're in rehab,
Like 'Hi, my name is Hollywood.
And I'm an alcoholic.'"
The reference to AA is especially telling and poignant. Meanwhile, the reservoir of emotion which gives the song so much substance is perfectly channeled through a sophisticated musical treatment that's as effortless as a conversation in "real life."
"Booty Dance," with a rhythm track based loosely on Nathaniel Kimble's "Can You Bag It Up," showcases the same Southern Soul ambience and overall professionalism as the opening tracks.
Avail Hollywood gives belated kudos to Jeff Floyd in this uptempo jam, while also nodding to:
"Steve Perry's song
Had them doing the 'Booty Roll.'
They did the 'Zydeco'
with T.K. Soul."
And. . .
Was in the house that night.
Ms. Jody was there,
The kind of girls I like."
The non-Southern Soul audience may frown on such in-bred musical references, but most true Southern Soul fans will enjoy the associations. Meanwhile, the Avail's slippery vocal fillips and peppercorn percussion keep things interesting.
By the time "Domestic Love" queues up, you may be wondering what else Avail can show in the line of Southern Soul credentials. Again, Avail surprises, slowing down the tempo with a mid-tempo ballad that perfectly touches Southern Soul sweet spot.
The comforting grooves of "The Weekend" and "Tribute To Tyrone" (based on Tyrone Davis's "Can I Change My Mind") are the best of the CD's remaining tracks. (The Carl Marshall-influenced "Forever and Always" is only slightly less appealing.)
By this time, you may be wondering why, after so many more albums under their belt, hiphop-influenced artists like Simeo and Cupid have so resolutely refused to absorb the Southern Soul ambience Avail here delivers with such freshness and ease.
In his humility, his willingness to learn, and his ability to graft the Southern Soul sound onto his unique producing capabilities, Avail follows the successful example of Bigg Robb. Drinking Again is tuneful, seamless and pleasant to the ear.
--Daddy B. Nice
Bargain-Priced Drinking Again CD, MP3's
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
If you liked Ms. Jody's "Yo Dog's About To Kill My Cat," you'll love Avail Hollywood's "Drinking Again."
Honorary "B" Side
"Don't Leave Me"
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