Harry Hochman’s first solo album Inside Out promises to be one of the year’s most fulfilling releases. The title song and first single from the effort promises that alone. “Inside Out” is an invigorating and well-written nod to the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s influences. “Inside Out” invokes echoes of songwriters such as Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and assorted others without ever slavishly mimicking their work. Hochman, instead, successfully positions his work as a natural heir to the traditions pursued by those aforementioned writers while likewise revamping the style for modern audiences. “Inside Out” doesn’t sound as if it’s tethered to a bygone past but, instead, like music that lives brilliantly in the now.
Chris Murphy’s production acumen is a big reason why. “Inside Out” is a relatively demure song in some respects, but Murphy’s big all-encompassing sonic framing of the composition gives it an unexpected sweep. You’ll feel carried away toward the song’s inevitable conclusion without the music ever pushing listeners too hard. Murphy’s mandolin playing positions itself as the direct answer to Hochman’s voice, but it likewise widens the song’s sound.
The mandolin promotes a lot of the song’s melodic strengths. Hochman’s vocal melody does as well as it serves as an important hook for drawing listeners deeper into the song and its lyrical message. Murphy’s mandolin isn’t omnipresent. Hochman achieves a sensible balance between the song’s disparate elements. He also manages its demands on listeners well. “Inside Out” does not run too long and few, if any, listeners will come away from this track feeling unsatisfied.
There are rugged edges in Hochman’s voice that give it character. The use of backing voices in the song never falls in lockstep with the lead vocals and that decision accentuates the overall. “Inside Out” sounds like a song reaching for a specific sound and exhibits no signs of obvious strain in its attempt. Hochman definitely aims for the classic Southern California singer/songwriter mood and reaches that goal without ever coming off as too imitative.
Yet it doesn’t make it a self-conscious throwback. Hochman has taken the classic strands of that aforementioned sound and revamped them for modern audiences. “Inside Out” percolates with a lot of energy, but never threatens to overwhelm listeners and does not press itself upon the audience. It’s an inviting, even convivial ride – Hochman wreathes himself in intimacy yet aspires to clear community at the same time.
Great songwriters and performers can pull off this juggling act. Hochman emerges mid-life as a largely finished songwriter, he has been doing this for his own personal edification and pleasure for quite some time, and now we’re hearing the fruits of his gifts. It’s an impressive introduction by any measure. Harry Hochman’s “Inside Out” harbingers an excellent album to come and should bedazzle anyone who values honest and thoroughly human songwriting. Hochman serves both up in spades and leaves you wanting more. Be patient – there’s always more coming, and rest assured it will match or surpass the standards he sets here.