Jolie Holland: The Living and the Dead

By: Sarah Moore

Tom Waits' darling Jolie Holland released her third studio album in October and it's perhaps her poppiest record yet. A founding member of the Be Good Tanyas, Holland's unique Southern-tinged coos and near-yodels still lift against any kind of backing instruments. Her country leanings are still present, but her sound is much less old-timey than her previous records. The initial track, "Mexico City," asks, "How many candles could I light for the living and the dead?" Holland wraps her voice around each word, dipping each syllable in breathy Southern sounds.

While the warm, acoustic glow around Holland's voice is sometimes filled by M. Ward and Marc Ribot (Waits' own guitarist), her own guitar and drumming is found throughout the entire album. "I love rock and roll, but I think it was hard for me to trust its motives until now," comments Holland about her branching into heavier hitting sounds on this album. While a hushed, pianissimo may introduce a piece it's the development into rocking folk with larger sounds that sets this disc apart. "Palmyra" begins with the formula just mentioned, eventually heading into raucous drumming, cymbals and rock guitar.

All but two tracks are Holland originals, often focused on love. Traditional "Love Henry" begins with a hollow guitar introduction before Holland's whispers and breaths find a pure moment sans too much of Holland's signature accent. Holland's voice is processed through a slightly grainy microphone to create an empty sound of loss of love. Her guitar and voice combination are joined by a whistling saw noise akin to the cutting whistle of Andrew Bird. Finally, relaxed and joking, Holland and Be Good Tanyas member Samantha Parton perform a jovial rendition of "Enjoy Yourself," a classic 1949 song written by Carl Sigman and Herb Magidson (and famously recorded by Doris Day and Bing Crosby).

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[Published on: 1/28/09]

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aquariumdrunk Thu 1/29/2009 08:33AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Nice review. I've definitely preferred the Be Good Tanyas' material overall, but judging by the couple tracks I've heard off this and some glowing comments, this might be the one that sells me on solo Jolie Holland. I need to give it a whirl.