SONGS OF OBSESSION: HOLLY MAXWELL

maxwell.jpg

Holly Maxwell: Only When You’re Lonely
From 7″ (Constellation, 1965). Also on Constellation of Chicago Soul

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t written one of these in ages (not that I haven’t been obsessed by other songs, I just haven’t bothered to highlight them).

I first heard this while perusing a seller’s list of 7″s and was instantly smitten. Let me count the ways:

1) I love ballads where the rhythm tracks have a slight edge to them, especially a bouncy little chink or twang to the guitar. 1 See also: Robert Parker’s “I Caught You in a Lie.”

2) I love the songwriting, how the background chorus of “only when you’re lonely” is a punchline that accents Maxwell’s singing, e.g. “call me on the phone/only when you’re lonely/want me for you own/only when you’re only…” It’s executed so perfectly on here.

3) The way Maxwell curves her notes. This is melisma done right – just the right amount to make the notes a touch more interesting but without slathering it on. Like the way she takes the word “found” and manages to make it sound like it’s three syllables.

Some songs, I wait them out, until the price is right. This one? I snapped it up at premium without a single moment of regret. So. Good.

  1. Not being self-hating, seriously, that’s how I’ve heard guitarist refer to that sound: chink.

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