Jolie Holland – Haunted Mountain
This young L.A.-based artist encapsulates some of her jazzier experience into songs that are contemporary with edgy subjects & serious issues blended with a smokey twang. Tales of being 5-years homeless, busking, asking for spare change, sleeping under underpasses & arroyos. Exciting stuff for songs – so long as the listener is in the warm comfort of their homes. But it’s compelling stuff for anyone to experience. And many do.
According to the PR, the songs are autobiographical. Holland had lived in a cult & managed to survive. Now Jolie turns her experience into her vivid lyrical songs. Vocally, Jolie has a warm lo-fi bluesy Norah Jones crossed with Lucinda Williams. On “Highway 72,” punctuated by a fiddle & singing with an equally raucous Buck Meek spills from the speakers with humidity, sweat beads on the forehead, cold water dripping from a shower, tin signs blowing in the wind & a storm forming on the horizon. Lots of atmosphere on this one.
“Haunted Mountain” is determinedly individualistic. Creepy in some ways like The Swans’ Jarboe. But Jolie has her exemplary style well-shaped for such a definitive tune. This is challenging. Yes, it still has an ounce of Lucinda Williams’ phrasing as she sings the words, but the intonation is hers & the spare instrumentation with its Tom Waits gone country-tarnish embellishes the tune with some genuinely dark delicacy.
The 9-cut, 41-minute Haunted Mountain (Drops Oct 6-Cinquefoil Records) is packed with a solid showcase of excellent songs. Graceful vocalizing expertly adds the necessary individualistic tone that’s easy bait for any ear. Jolie isn’t as progressive as Kate Bush, Jane Siberry, or as weird as Nina Hagen or Lena Lovich — but she has the provocative melodic fodder of Jarboe & Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard. They encapsulate some traditional seedlings in a musical planter that also has some devilish & imaginative fauna.
Not quite as dark as This Mortal Coil or the Golden Palominos but in that neighborhood. The smear of buttery weirdness is part of the investment, but Holland’s angelic voice lends significance to the art she has threaded into her music. Her subjects can be controversial – anti-colonialism, feminism, literature & our harmful effects on nature. But Jolie is discreet in her musical sensitivity. Many songs are digestible. It’s the pure dynamic of her originality in showcasing each that’s to be applauded. Something different…now that’s a concept.
Highlights – “Highway 72,” “Haunted Mountain,” “Won’t Find Me,” & “Me & My Dream.”
Color image courtesy of Chris Doody. CD @ Amazon & https://joliehollandmusic.com/