October 12, 2008
by Jordan Anne Karnes

Jolie Holland Haunts the Belly Up, Releases New Album

The Belly Up | 10/12/2008

Golden-tongued modern folk matriarch Jolie Holland knows a bit about traveling. After three albums stirring full with songs of restless wandering, she is aptly prepared for her most current route: a sprawling two month tour featuring nearly every city on either side of the Mississippi (not to mention the Atlantic)—all starting, of course, in our fine old San Diego. Holland played a gorgeous show at the Belly Up Sunday night, opened by French folkies, Herman Dune.

Holland’s tour is in complements to her new album, The Living and the Dead, released Tuesday, October 7th.  The show started with the album’s first track, “Mexico City”, flawlessly featuring Holland’s classic draw, backed with a full band temporarily nicknamed The Drunken Cuddles. She played heavily from her new album, but also performed staples from earlier records Catalpa, Escondida, and Springtime Can Kill You.

It was interesting to hear the new arrangements of many of the older tunes—especially those from her basement-recorded Catalpa. “Alley Flowers”, for example, commenced with a wickedly-sharp solo on a home fashioned, box-shaped violin, then developed into a haunting, mystical sound as the band filled in, helping to stretch and expand the old tune into something almost atmospheric. There were many such occasions, with both the new and the old, moments of such palpable energy and piercing accuracy. Moments filled with sounds you haven’t heard, sounds you didn’t know could make your knees go weak and your heart go soft. I am certain I’ve never heard such a devastating whistle in all my days. Good Lord.

There really couldn’t have been any better of an introduction to an album, as I was going to need a little coaxing into her more band-backed and well-produced The Living and the Dead. Confession: I’m admittedly old fashioned and stuck in my ways. I like low-fi and I am always initially disappointed when an artist “changes with the times.” (Confession #2: I’ve been listening to Catalpa way too consistently for the past five years.) Granted, I usually come around (as has been the case with Springtime Can Kill You) and actually enjoy the varied arrangements and new efforts in sound. The Drunken Cuddles are a hell of crew and deserve more credit than I’m giving, but hearing Holland’s instrumental voice introduce these new tunes was a real treat.

Given her circuitous schedule, Holland very well may be coming soon to a town near you. If so, give it a go.

Photo by Caroline Holmes

Tags: Belly Up, Jolie Holland, Living and the Dead

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