It’s always difficult to lose somebody close to you. But it’s even more difficult when it’s tragic, unexpected, and before adulthood really even took shape.
Such is the case between two lifelong friends, Jones Kolbinsky and Carter Holland. In 2021, Holland unexpectedly passed away in his sleep from a heart attack at the young age of 24. He was revered as a skilled musician and journalist from Alexandria, Virginia, who was known for his kindness, sense of humor, and love for his friends and family.
He wrote and recorded a multitude of songs throughout his brief time on this planet, but due to his untimely passing, he never got the chance to properly release his work– until his close friend and musical counterpart Jones Kolbinsky decided to do it for him posthumously.
Kolbinsky met Holland when they were both 9-years-old at Alpine Camp for Boys in Mentone, Alabama. Holland was already interested in music at the time, and within a couple of years, he was playing guitar and mandolin at a high level. “Carter actually gave me my first guitar lessons back then. [We would] sit together on the front porch of our cabin, acoustics in hand, and watch the sun set over Lookout Mountain each night,” Kolbinsky told us.
He went on to say, “Once college rolled around, Carter had gotten deep into analog gear, and took a perfectionist attitude to his songwriting and recording process. I think that’s why he never got around to putting out an album of his own. He was just so damn stubborn. Everything had to be recorded onto tape, and click tracks were forbidden. He wanted the music to be raw, yet polished. Performed well, but performed with grit. His music was an enigma, just like he was.”
And as fate would have it, the two would later find out they were distantly related—seventh cousins once removed.
Since Holland’s death, Kolbinsky has compiled, re-recorded, mastered, and finished many of Holland’s original songs. On June 8th, 2023, Kolbinsky released Distant Cousins, a collection of his friend’s music as a tribute to him and the bond they shared.
The 19-track album begins with the heart-wrenching tune “Window Screen;” a short and sweet ballad that is as beautiful as it is tragic. Holland’s vibrant personality is felt within the first few chords of the song, and the sparse lyrics are touching: “And I’ll miss the time we shared together / And I hope you know just how much that I love you / How much that I’ll miss you when I’m away.” Opening the collection with this track beautifully demonstrates the bond shared between Kolbinsky and Holland.
The third song on the album, “Rain and Shine,” showcases the friends’ natural chemistry and collaborative efforts, as Holland plays acoustic guitar while Kolbinsky does the rest. The two strike a perfect balance between melancholy and upbeat happiness, resulting in a relatable tune about unrequited love, hope, and humanity.
“Still Standing By (Carter Solo)” is the final track on the album, closing it out on a deeply moving note. Kolbinsky’s admiration for his friend can be felt in his choice to end Holland’s work with a piece that is all his, and the piece itself is a beautiful, quiet ballad that is packed with emotion and feeling.
The release of Distant Cousins is a touching testament of friendship and love, and it serves as a beautiful tribute to the person and musician that Carter Holland was.