Jolie Holland

By - Oct 1st, 2008 02:52 pm


Things don’t always turn out as they should, but Texasborn singer/songwriter Jolie Holland has no desire to turn life’s lemons into anything but woeful songs. With addiction, depression, and both shattered hearts and dreams rampant, the fine line between dead and alive is often indistinguishable. It’s not ideal listening material for those with suicidal tendencies, but fans of the country-blues will find Holland’s fourth studio release relaxed and fluent.

Holland’s warm fiddling on “Sweet Loving Man,” which could play on any smoky small-town bar’s jukebox, makes it a favorite. Though her warbling vocal style borders on annoying when it’s too ambitious (is there a tongue depressor in her mouth?), her whistling on the disc’s two most traditionalsounding folk songs, “You Painted Yourself In” and “Love Henry” is beyond impressive, and could easily be mistaken for singing saw.

Portlanders M. Ward and Rachel Blumberg (formerly of the Decemberists) make notable contributions — Ward’s rock-influenced guitar on “Your Big Hands” adds pick-me-up spunk to sad-sack lyrics, and Blumberg’s drumming, particularly on “Corrido Por Buddy” and “Mexico City,” has just enough heft and meter to keep the arrangements from dragging.

Dishes clang behind the giggly acoustic cover of “Enjoy Yourself” (“it’s later than you think”), and though it seems like an unnecessary, tack-on closing track, it seals in the admirably pragmatic outlook Holland has been singing about throughout: “I’ll dance at your funeral/if you dance at mine”(“Palmyra”).

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