Jolie Holland at the Walnut Room, 5/26/12

Categories: Last Night

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Adam Perry
Jolie Holland last night at the Walnut Room.

JOLIE HOLLAND @ WALNUT ROOM | 5.26.12

After the applause died down following her final song last night, Jolie Holland offered to pay someone in the crowd for gas if they could drive her to her next gig in Colorado Springs. It's a shame that she was forced to ask, and also rather bittersweet for fans, knowing that she has sabotaged her career in some crucial ways that have placed her in this sort of predicament, while at the same time, giving us continued chances to be able see her perform in venues the size of living rooms and then be able chat with her immediately afterward.

Holland is arguably the best female singer-songwriter of her generation. Her early Escondida lyrics, like "When you arrived it was if we had both died and gone somewhere else," marked the beginning of a continually brilliant career. She belongs in the pantheon - if not near the importance -- of Americana that includes the likes of Jimmie Rodgers, Charlie Patton and Townes Van Zandt, a notion that's troubling to reconcile with how she's downsized from a career that pretty early on found her headlining rooms like the Boulder Theater to playing notably smaller venues, "Because," as she put it, "I've done a good job ruining my career. One of my biggest mistakes was not having a personal trainer."

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Adam Perry
Jolie Holland

Speaking with the smart, voluptuous, natural beauty after the show, the complex-and-torn Holland went on to call herself fat and sincerely claim that her weight, along with a tumultuous end to her connection with a longtime manager, is why she's universally praised by critics yet not experiencing the kind of success she deserves, the kind enjoyed by artists like Feist or Joanna Newsom.

Holland is a thoroughly American product, personally and artistically, having been raised in the deep South and then cultivating a fascinating solo career on both coasts over the last decade or so. She's as old-timey as modern American folk-rock gets, with her simple black dress, black stockings, black shoes for tapping and a single silver chain around her neck. Her Brooklyn-meets-Texas swagger, sway and desirable quiver bolster her harrowing songs of heartache, heavenly sweetness and sweet hatred. As she happily told the crowd last night, she's somewhere between Billie Holiday and Willie Nelson.

"Even her setup is burlesque," my companion observed as Holland elegantly curled up and down gently plugging her Les Paul into a tiny old amplifier and readied her mike at the Walnut Room in Denver on Saturday night.

Beginning with a bit of her beloved Syd Barrett, who she said put the "the" in "the Pink Floyd," and continuing into a few tunes from her dreamily twisted new album, Pint of Blood, Holland took the Walnut Room stage alone except for an electric guitar, forgoing all solos - handled often on her last two records by the inimitable Marc Ribot - and laid it all out, for better or worse.

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Adam Perry
Jolie Holland last night at the Walnut Room.

Singing songs from all over her five-album solo catalog (none from her days with the Be Good Tanyas this time), Holland whistled beautifully and played violin capably (recalling a more rootsy, darker Andrew Bird). She won huge focus and applause with striking renditions of the bluesy "Old Fashioned Morphine" and the funeral pop of the New Orleans-themed "Palmyra," while a few other songs were abbreviated due to a mild cough, a few lyrics were forgotten, and her set was just over an hour with no encore.

No matter how you look at it, Holland deserves respect for driving solo across the country, literally selling the stack of CDs at her feet from stage, all while enjoying the support of -Anti, one of the most reputable labels in the country, with virtually no management or promotion.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this review stated that Holland serves as her own manager and publicist, an assertion that the artist says is inaccurate. The aside -- which was added for clarification purposes during the editing process after a discussion with the writer -- has been stricken.


CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

Personal Bias: Holland is the only artist, in any medium, I can think of who can make me star-struck. She is sort of a ghostlike figure in the music industry, almost universally hailed by critics and musicians but passing through tollbooths from state to state incognito, like a female Bob Dylan, if Dylan had opened his career with "John Wesley Harding."

Random Detail: The lyric, "If nothing else we've got that old second line," from "Palmyra" was explained by Holland to allude to a funeral jam session. She recently, along with a four-year-old, participated in a memorable "second line" for a goldfish. In giving a eulogy for the fish, the toddler delivered this accidentally poetic one-liner: "I loved the way you swam in puzzles."

By The Way: Telling the story of the American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran a few years ago and used the Dylan lyric, "Now is the time for your tears," from "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," as their code for a hunger strike, Holland did Dylan justice by covering that early '60s classic. It was powerful to say the least.



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The Walnut Room

3131 Walnut St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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2 comments
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Jolie Holland
Jolie Holland

Adam! Dude. You could have checked facts with me. I am not my own publicist and manager. I have a great manager, and great label who have their own publicists. I didn't ask for a ride to my own show. I'm not destitute. I'm just a carless New Yorker. When I'm on tour I rent a van. I am borrowing my friend's car to drive to Colorado Springs, where I'm going to play strings on Conor Bourgal's record. I'm driving there as soon as my friend gets back from work, since I'm borrowing her car. Its a 3 hour drive from Cheyenne, and it would have been much shorter if I'd been able to ride with someone last night.

The comments I made about being "fat" were just dumb jokes and I'm surprised you took that seriously. I was only trying to answer your question about 'why do I think I'm not as popular as some other singers.' It was a Really dumb joke, and I thought you would know I was kidding.

I'm not on tour. I just asked my booker to set up this show cause I'm writing in Cheyenne.

I know you were trying to be complimentary with this review, but I must admit, my feelings are hurt that you sort of cast me as this victim of circumstance.

someone like you
someone like you

A review is meant to paint a picture, to give an overallfeel of the show or the artist.  You're not supposed to look so closely atthe brushstrokes.  This review did more to improve your image thananything I've read about you in a long time...until I got to your comment atthe end.  The micromanaging of your press is getting tiresome.  Youtook the idea of jolie holland as a sexy (broader definition, for thoseitemizing my words) musician deserving of canonization and turned her into thatboring whiny girl who you can't remember for the life of you why you thoughtwas awesome and beautiful when you met her out late one night a couple weeksago.  Because it’s your life, it may behard to see that it’s so, but the details of whether or not you’re on tour,requiring rides, and using self-deprecating humor to deal with issues ofpopularity in the music industry, are all minutiae.  I just thought it was kind of cool to thinkof you on a solo tour selling cds at your feet. Are the techniques of a painting nearly as important as what it feelslike to the observer when it’s hanging in the gallery?

You distance yourself from folk like it’s a four letter word, withoutunderstanding its definition or its purpose and how much a part of it you areand why that’s an incredible thing.  Yourlyrics and music come from a beautiful part of your brain.  The rest ofyour brain has a tendency to muddy that up.  Get a friendwho is smart enough to tell you these things. Please get out of the way of your music. Let it shine.

Sincerely,

a fellow musician and fan

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