album reviews

Jolie Holland
Springtime Can Kill You
Anti- (2006)

At first blush, Jolie Holland (co-founder and former member of the Be Good Tanyas) sounds a lot like Cat Power: Even beyond their proclivity for piano-driven tunes, their voices share a sorrowful tone and a throaty timbre. But where Cat Power can be overly brooding, Holland's latest, "Springtime Can Kill You," is a wistful throwback to lounge music with its charming blend of jazz and blues.

"Springtime" excels with the simple beauty of its arrangements: The waltz-like "Stubborn Beast" is anchored by a swooning lap steel, while "You're Not Satisfied" gets a powerful oomph from a trio credited as the On-Your-Knees Brassband (mellophone, baritone horn and tuba). And the piano weaves in and out, brightening the otherwise doleful "Mehitabel's Blues" and augmenting the heartbreak in "Please Don't."

But Holland's voice far outsells the lushly understated instrumentation. On a cover of Vancouver songwriter C.R. Avery's "Crazy Dreams," she stretches the song's title to 10 mournful syllables without a hint of melodrama or showmanship. The laid-back "Moonshiner" is part-love song, part-lullaby, while Holland's tender singing on the album-closing "Mexican Blue" (dedicated to fellow Be Good Tanyas founder Samantha Parton) intensifies her overtly personal lyrics.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 14 July 2006, Page WE07
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