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Jolie Holland
ESCONDIDA
(Anti-/Epitath)
Stars graphics

Jolie Holland borrows equally from Dixieland jazz and Appalachian folk as she meanders down an uncharted course on Escondida, paying little heed to verse-chorus-bridge distinctions. The arrangements are quiet and acoustic; ukulele, marimba, and bowed saw play prominent roles. The lyrics both indulge in and poke fun at the myth of the hopeless romantic, with occasional perplexing asides like this one from "Black Stars": "The moon is wizened, and it is old as a toad in a Chinese story." Most striking is Holland’s vocal style. Her rich alto seems to curl up at the edges, embarrassed by its own depth — yet her phrasing on tracks like "Sascha" and "Lil Missy" is the epitome of confidence, as if she’d so internalized the rules of harmony and rhythm that she knows whatever she does will work out. Billie Holiday comparisons are already flying around this young Texan (and founding member of the Be Good Tanyas), though she doesn’t have Holiday’s pleading edge; cross Anita O’Day with Tammy Wynette and you’re closer. But forget the references: only two albums into her solo career, Jolie Holland is clearly her own woman, and a major talent.

BY MAC RANDALL


Issue Date: April 23 - 29, 2004
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