Peter Holsapple, who co-fronted power-pop cult heroes The dB’s in the eighties and subsequently worked with everyone from R.E.M. to Hootie & The Blowfish, has plenty of recordings to his credit, but up until now there’s only been one solo outing in his discography: the 1997 album Out of My Way. That’s about to change with the impending arrival of his single “Don’t Mention the War” b/w “Cinderella Style.”
Holsapple, who grew up in Winston-Salem and currently makes his home in Durham, doesn’t mind speculating on the reason for the scarcity of his solo material.
“I don’t feel there’s been any pressing need by the general public to hear more from me,” he explains. “And obviously as time has passed and I’m listening to college radio…I realize I’m kind of an anachronism. I’m about to turn sixty-one years old. I have no hair, I’m overweight. I’m not matinee idol stuff.”
Fortunately, none of the above has prevented Holsapple from writing new material. And while the two tracks he’s self-releasing on a physical, old-school 45 are far from what you’d expect if you’re primary association with him is from his dB’s days, they’re both intriguing, affecting tunes. “Don’t Mention the War” is a haunting ballad that views a veteran’s PTSD through the eyes of his teenage nephew.
“I sense that that’s something that people go through,” Holsapple says, “Their relatives come back with PTSD and they’re almost unrecognizable with the changes. So I just tried to immerse myself in that.”
The single’s B side, “Cinderella Style,” is similarly balladic, but it bears a markedly less melancholy tone.
“I was trying to make almost a still life—sort of looking at a late evening in a sewing room, and the person’s been smoking, and the air is a little thick and the light is dark and dim, but pretty. I wanted to try to get the beauty across as well,” Holsapple says of the track.
The gentle latticework of acoustic guitar and keyboards at the arrangement’s core is as carefully constructed and artfully engaging as the fabrics lovingly detailed in the song’s lyrics: “Calico and gabardine, satin, silk, and velveteen.” And the warmth the tune generates is the kind that can keep your heart well insulated no matter what kind of weather the winter conjures up. You can listen for yourself below, and pick up a physical copy of the single on February 3.