Jolie Holland: the living and the dead (Anti)

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Jolie Holland: Sweet Loving Man
Jolie Holland: the living and the dead (Anti)

There are no liner notes on the advance copy of this album I received some weeks back, but it would be interesting to speculate which of these songs from this San Francisco-based singer-songwriter were penned while on a writing retreat in New Zealand: the  throwaway Enjoy Yourself ("it's later than you think") at the end perhaps where she giggles away?

While there is still the charming yet dark alt.folk feel here (and scraping fiddles and so forth) here the hugely talented Holland also moves towards a kind of indie.pop approach with help from M Ward, guitarist to the stars (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) Marc Ribot and producer Shahzad Ismaily (Bonnie Prince Billy).

There are strange sonic effects which make this one slightly unnerving in places and keep your attention, but there is also an elemental simplity to much of the material: she picks up the old Love Henry which Dylan once favoured; the poppy opener Mexico City - which musically alludes to but doesn't quote from Hispanic music - sounds like it has been around forever (in a good way) and the moving Corrido por Buddy is a sad, spare tale of ghost-faced junkie unrecognisable to his former friends.

Holland has such an idiosyncratic way of phrasing and pronouncing words that everything here is memorable and if in places this lacks just a little of the spark that has been her hallmark there is enough of her rootsy style (albeit slightly rocked up) that means old fans can happily come here.

And Your Big Hands is an unpolished diamond deftly coloured by Stones-styled riffery. 

 

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