With her début release, Claire Hollingsworth, bandleader at Brunswick’s School on the Hill, follows on from her two EPs with a gently sparkling ode to deviations from normalcy. This is a small album both in tone, ambition and running time, though it’s no less wonderful for its intimacy, a sense that fits perfectly with the production and packaging.
“I come to you in sleep / guided by the lighthouse that you keep” Hollingsworth gently intones as the album unfolds. Many songs herein are quiet and thoughtful turns, served well by the treatment they’re given. Roping in Andrew Wright to produce and percuss, Craft Savvy Criminal has been given an ideal midwife. The album is a lovingly made collection of songs, and, as the cover art so clearly suggests, one heedless of fashion or current trends. Hollingsworth has a voice it’s difficult to imagine inhabiting any other genre, so well matched to a gently strummed acoustic guitar, sparse piano and quiet reflections that seduce as they celebrate. Odes to a stolen laptop (Dear Junkies) and her hometown (Fremantle) rub shoulders with the darkly fragile and lonely Four Walls while the whole thing sounds as though it couldn’t have come from anywhere else in the world than Melbourne.
Hollingsworth’s talent for constructing and arranging a song is greater than her subjects, which are more commonly musings that become compelling through her rendering. It’s easy to feel you know her given the sincerity and warmth inhabiting every second and it’s a testament to the musicians involved that the performances are top notch and arrangements sensitive. Possibly the finest songs on the album Mirror Mirror and Faux Serial Killer sees Hollingsworth empower her songs with uplifting vocal and string arrangements which suggest that when she’s ready to broaden her palette, the results will be wonderful indeed. As it is, Craft Savvy Criminal is a record to seek and treasure.