Feb 13, 2009

Jolie Holland @ The Basement

I am a complete sucker for earthy, soulful American singers with a country stripe in their heart. The great ones. Neko Case, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin. I love them all and I have seen them all live in the last year or three. Now I add Jolie Holland to that list. This glorious creature entertained and bewitched us Thursday night at The Basement. This is Jolie's third visit to these shores, but my first visit with her. It was a glorious visit. Indeed.

Firstly she is a singular woman. No pretense, no nonsense. Extremely graceful and superbly talented. She performed with an excellent band which included the esteemed Rachel Blumberg on drums, but she opened solo. Playing an ancient semi-acoustic, she opened with an older number in "December, 1999". Which was quite beautiful. The band then joined her and she gave us a set made up mostly of songs from her latest "The Living and the Dead", with the odd older tune and some well chosen covers thrown in. She also sang us two songs that she recorded for the new album, but which didn't make the cut. One was "Honey Girl", which she played on piano and the other was one I wasn't sure of the title, but closed the night.

Of the newer songs I was excited to hear "Palmyra", "Corrido Por Buddy" and "The Future". They all sounded great, with the full band sound. Jolie covered a wonderful Catherine Irwin song and also one from Irwin's longtime band Freakwater in the encore. I think she covered a Willie Nelson song too. Well, I am going with that anyway. She certainly covered a Bob Dylan song, which I didn't recognise, but later discovered was "To Ramona". Strangely, she barely touched "Springtime Can Kill You", only playing one song from that album. But she did touch on "Escondida" a fair bit, including a rousing rendition of "Old Fashioned Morphine" and then closing with "Mad Tom Of Bedlam". This was great as it was just Rachel on drums and Jolie on a very ancient looking violin. Which looked more like a box with strings attached. I am sure this instrument could tell some great stories. It was a wonderful night. Holland has a unique singing style, singing with a clenched mouth and lingering on each word. A country drawl if you will. She didn't say a lot early on, but warmed up later, giving us some little vignettes of her life. Her musical style is hard to pin down. A touch of country, a dash of soul, a dab of folk. It's certainly her own unique style. Her lyrics are dark and gothic, but they contain a certain amount of beauty. Just like her enchanting performance.

Set List
December, 1999
Mexico City
Sweet Loving Man
Swan Dive (Catherine Irwin cover)
Honey Girl
The Littlest Birds
Goodbye California
Hable El Corazon (Willie Nelson cover?)
The Future
Crush In The Ghetto
Your Big Hands
To Ramona (Bob Dylan cover)
Corrido Por Buddy
Old Fashioned Morphine
Mad Tom Of Bedlam

My Old Drunk Friend (Freakwater cover)


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