Hip Hatchet is the chosen musical alias (adopted from a novel by Gary Paulson) of singer-songwriter Philippe Bronchtein. Whilst to some the name may conjure images of some sort of Southern Rock boogie outfit what lurks inside Hold You Like A Harness, his fourth album, is keening rustic Americana, featuring a distinctive guitar picking style a voice wearied by too many miles and too many hard knocks, but still open to life and love.
Backed by Scott Davis on guitar, violinist Nathan Crockett and Ty Bailie on keys, parts are also fleshed out with fuller orchestration, Bronchtein has a throaty, gravelly baritone and cites Townes, Bob Dylan and Nebraska era Bruce Springsteen as prime influences.
There’s a couple of occasions when he cranks up the volume and tempo, the former on the muscular electric guitars of Ladies Night, the latter on the jaunty, good time dobro bounce of Father Redemption, but otherwise these are reflective ballads or mid-tempo numbers, often reflecting, as on Tacoma Bound and Travelmap, his restless road spirit (though Small Bird Song is about the joys of being back home) as well as heavy and longing hearts in need of companionship, but afraid of the chains, a theme finely sketched on the fingerpicked title track opener as he sings “Man, I can’t commit for shit but damn can I act and pretend.”
It’s an open and honest work, intimate in its delivery yet still capable of reaching out to larger audiences, the likes of the storytelling fable David’s Wolves, the steel laced, tender Words Of Wisdom (“an exhausted pretty woman drinking in the sun reminded me of how long it’d been since I’d really known someone”) and the slow-waltzing Cars Look Like Crying, which features the terrific line “The tires slide slowly as I stumble and wave to take me to a home full of judgment and men that depend on their cars to cry for them.”
Review by: Mike Davies
Released today and available via Bandcamp: https://hiphatchet.bandcamp.com/album/hold-you-like-a-harness