Ben Fagan and The Holy City Hooligans, The Freestyle Sessions 1

It is pretty safe to say that Ben Fagan is a consummate performer. From his starring (and subsequently winning) the CBS reality game show, Pirate Master to the years he spent as frontman for Charleston’s own The Plainfield Project; Fagan has never been one to eschew the limelight. Earlier this year, Fagan set out on another creative project and created The Holy City Hooligans. Much in the style of Sublime and OAR, the Hooligans blend an amalgam of styles and genres into a cohesive sound that offers the positive sentiment of Reggae, the groovy vibes of funk and the added bounce of Hip-Hop. As evidenced on their debut The Freestyle Sessions 1, the melding of the different styles renders what Fagan labels: “a dance-able, feel-good experience” and this is reinforced with song titles the likes of: “Sunny Daze”, “Glory” and “Wonderful.”

Buy ‘The Freestyle Sessions 1’:

Opening to “We Will Remain” you’re instantly hit with a radio-friendly sounds of pop-meets-Hip-Hop with tandem vocals between rapper Adam Seigler and Fagan as he channels G Love through to the chorus. The backing melody and instrumentation easily foreshadow the ethos of the aforementioned “feel-good.” I smell an album single on this one. “Lift Me Up” opens to slight island percussion, staccato guitar riff work and backing keys all over Fagan’s reggae-ish vocal delivery. The upbeat, optimistic lyrics again reinforce the positive vein against which the album is cast and while Fagan stands at the foreground, the track is only completed by the competent musicality just beneath the surface. “We Winnin’” sounds cast from the mold of a Jay-Z track with the appearance of celebrated Charleston Hip-Hop icon Righchus supplying rap verses over slight backing guitar and rhythm section. Rounding out the album is “Wrong Day” with backing horns and funk guitar. One part groove, another part Ska it is the rock guitar fills that shine on this one.

Despite this being a debut album, Fagan is no fledgling artist. Having cut his teeth on local and regional venues over several years, perhaps his best assets lie with his unwavering desire to make music, but also in his ability to surround himself with the right people. Sessions features appearances from former Plainfield Project bandmates (with whom he obviously has a strong musical rapport and won Best Local Band with) and some of Charleston’s best and brightest artists across multiple genres (Righchus has been named Best Local Hip-Hop Artist for two years). Talented and smart? How can you really go wrong with that?      

by Chris West

[Rating: 3.5/5]

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