By Davis Coen

Oxford acoustic guitar and vocal duo Lee Harrington and Emily Holman get most of their gig offers through word of mouth.  This tends to bring about more interesting and intimate occasions than if they were inclined to play at just bar venues.

“I don’t have the time these days to walk around the Square knocking on doors,” Harrington joked. 

The Harrington-Holman Duo began drawing some local attention to their act in 2019, when they were doing frequent performances at the centrally located Chancellor’s House Hotel, on the corner of South Lamar Boulevard and University Avenue.

The duo got booked to play on Fridays before Ole Miss Football games, then soon became one of the more sought-after cover acts in town. 

Their regular performances at Chancellor’s House (which has recently made cosmetic changes and been renamed The Oliver Hotel) came from an opportunity they had one day to show their talents, at a dedication party in the hotel’s large event room.

They were asked to play the popular hit “Shallow” from the film “A Star is Born,” and hotel management happened to be on hand to witness the terrific impromptu performance.

“Emily has a fantastic voice, and she could pull off the Lady Gaga part of it,” said Harrington.  “We were just kind of having fun with it – but the girls loved it!” 

Lee and Emily

The duo, who have known each other since freshman year at Ole Miss, when Emily was dating Harrington’s roommate and still-best friend Kevin, have been performing together in the MidSouth for over a decade.

Before breaking ground in Oxford five years ago, they played numerous gigs in both the Jackson, MS, and Memphis areas.  Harrington notably was also part of another popular local group Trowbridge & Harrington, who played frequently at Syd & Harry’s back in the day.

The Harrington-Holman Duo took on somewhat of a musical residency at Chancellor’s House in late 2018, and their frequent evening appearances continued until the pandemic took hold in early 2020.

Harrington described that the shows started to become a reunion destination for friends from their college days, who enjoyed stopping by to reconnect while also enjoying good music.

“It became a gathering place, and we just happened to be the ‘cherry on top,’” he said. 

The duo has been asked to take part in a number of weddings, but typically their role is playing at the rehearsal dinners, which are slightly better suited for their acoustic guitar & vocal harmony-based music. 

Harrington remarked that he and Holman have played at wedding receptions as well as rehearsal dinners, but that receptions tend to be more of a “dance band kind of thing.” 

The duo has also performed what Harrington calls the “special music” at the wedding, which will lean more towards the sentimental selections.

In recent years, the Harrington-Holman Duo’s go-to song during tender moments of a wedding has been Bob Dylan’s 1997 deep track “Make You Feel My Love,” which resurged after pop singer Adele released a rendition on her debut album.

The duo also enjoys performing songs recorded by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, who released a pair of seminal rock & country-tinged albums in the 2000s.

The multi-Grammy winners’ meld of rock/country and male-female vocal harmonies hit home for the duo.

“We love harmony,” he said.  “The main focus of what we really do is harmony.” Harrington remarked that he and Holman found a certain kindred spirit in the chemistry that Plant and Krauss had on their albums. 

Holman’s voice is also showcased on a handful of Fleetwood Mac songs, particularly those featuring singer Stevie Nicks, like “Landslide” and “Dreams.”

Harrington mentioned that Holman also sings a fantastic rendition of “Rhiannon,” although chooses not to sing it in certain settings – because Nicks’ song was about a woman from a novel that she read who gets possessed by a witch. 

Other known artists in their set include Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, Simon & Garfunkel, and Carole King.  They’ve also found “Gasoline and Matches” by Buddy and Julie Miller to be a time-tested and good fit. 

In February, the duo celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show by performing a set of the British rock band’s music at the Penny Bar, located below Moe’s BBQ right off the Square. 

Harrington has been a lifelong fan of The Beatles and was excited to adapt the Harrington-Holman Duo’s sound to the band’s famous harmonies.  

He recalled growing up and sitting in front of a record player, learning Beatles songs with his brother, and said he always had a soft spot for George Harrison’s original songs. 

“It’s funny how ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ are in their top songs on Spotify,” said Harrington.