Rival Sons – Hollow Bones

album by:
Rival Sons

Reviewed by:
On 18 May 2016
Last modified:18 May 2016


Every new album from Rival Sons takes them further down the road to legendary status and in Hollow Bones they take a massive leap. It is, quite simply, genius.

Rival Sons – Hollow Bones

Great Western Valkyrie was one of my albums of the year when it came out in 2014 and was arguably the album that propelled Rival Sons to a new level. This coupled with their live performances garnered them a slot travelling across the world with Black Sabbath.  So it’s been with bated breath that I’ve not so patiently awaited the arrival of Hollow Bones.  Would it live up to GWV?  Have they really had time to make this album properly or has the incessant touring resulted in a rush job?  Obviously I need to learn to have a little more faith.  Each album in the genesis of Rival Sons thus far, in my eyes at least, shows a genuine progression, a growth of the band and their sound and Hollow Bones is another step in the same direction.  Produced in Nashville’s LCS studios by long time collaborator Dave Cobb the album is everything you’d expect from Rival Sons, impeccable work from Dave Beste and Michael Miley, fuzzed out guitar and solos that will leave you on the floor begging for more from Mr Fuzzlord himself Scott Holiday and THAT VOICE.  I’ve seen Rival Sons a few times and each time Jay Buchanan puts so much of himself into his performance he ends up literally on his knees.  His studio work is no less astonishing than his live performance.  It is so raw and emotive, so tender and touching, but with a real power and force behind it.  It’s a voice that demands your attention and forces the listener to run the gamut of emotions behind every word of every track.  Put simply it’s one of the best voices in the world right now, maybe ever.

The album opens with the title track, or at least half of it.  In the same way that Head Down featured Manifest Destiny Parts 1 and 2, this album begins with ‘Hollow Bones Part 1’, with ‘Part 2’ coming near the end.  ‘Part 1′ is a statement of intent, from the opening notes it could be no other band.  Rival Sons’ sound is becoming so distinctive you just can’t mistake them.  As Jay sings about feeling the hair on the back of your neck stand up you get the feeling that’s exactly what they intended to happen when listening.  Played loud it’s good, played live it will be great.  ‘Tied Up’ takes things down a notch, a love song with lyrics that deserve close attention, before Jay lets the voice burst out again on ‘Thundering Voices’.  He has the ability to touch the soul in ways that make you flinch, so direct is the tone of his voice.  The lyric becomes a metaphor for his vocal, “Thundering voices loud and clear, speaking the truth for all to hear.”  ‘Baby Boy’ is chock full of social commentary, images of people drawing the curtains and pretending the world is fine; “nobody says a thing cos they think they shouldn’t have to, but here comes a baby boy with a gun in his hand.”  In these days of bubblegum pop it’s refreshing to hear a band with something to say actually go out and say it.  ‘Pretty Face’ is the most layered track on the album; a breakup story with the trademark fuzzy guitars, overlaid with futuristic, almost spacey sounds, a pounding drum track from Miley and Beste’s heavy bass line, as Buchanan repeats the lyric, “You’re just another pretty face.”  It sounds every bit as angry as the cuckolded protagonist of the lyric.

‘Fade Out’ is another track which, when played live, will completely destroy every venue.  Crashing cymbals and haunting, threatening guitar pair with a vocal that swings between melancholy and desperate to create something that may well become one of Rival Sons most anthemic tracks.  Fans will be familiar with ‘Black Coffee’, a cover of Humble Pie’s 1973 track previously released by the band for Record Store Day 2015.  The track has been given a Rival Sons twist, but the use of female backing singers is a nice touch, in a clear nod to the brilliance of the original.  It’s followed by ‘Hollow Bones Part 2’.  For as much as I love music, I’m all about the lyrics.  I like to listen to songs that have something to say and this track has it in spades.  It’s a thesis on humanity and religion, from birth until we are nothing but hollow bones.  “When you’re down, when you’re weak, on your knees and you cannot speak, who’s gonna save you?”  As the track whips itself into a frenzy of hallelujahs and hare krishnas it’s easy to get completely lost in it.  When the instruments fade and all that’s left is the vocal you’re already so lost in it that when the music crashes back in and the vocal goes from a whisper to a roar you can be left quite stunned.  The album closes with ‘All That I Want’.  I’ve heard this on the radio a few times recently and it is simply beautiful.  All instrumentation takes a back seat as Jay Buchanan sings what I can only describe as a love song in the form of a lullaby.  It is touching, tender, and so raw it cuts right to the bone.  It will speak to the lovelorn in all of us and if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye then I suggest you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

In the anticipation of waiting for a new album when you loved its predecessor there’s always a slight worry that it might not live up to expectations.  Hollow Bones lives up to and flies right past all hopes I had for it.  Amazing.

Track Listing:

  1. Jay Buchanan Intro
  2. Hollow Bones Pt 1
  3. Tied Up
  4. Thundering Voices
  5. Baby Boy
  6. Pretty Face
  7. Fade Out
  8. Black Coffee
  9. Hollow Bones Pt 2
  10. All That I Want





Every new album from Rival Sons takes them further down the road to legendary status and in Hollow Bones they take a massive leap. It is, quite simply, genius.

About KarenS

Photographer, lover of books and movies. Can normally be found walking the dog in the rain.
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