album reviews

Jolie Holland
The Living and the Dead
Anti- (2008)

Jolie Holland seems to explore a slightly different style on each of her solo albums; she has moved from the dark minimalism of 2003's "Catalpa" to a gospel-blues mix on 2004's "Escondida" to the loungey blues tunes on 2006's "Springtime Can Kill You." Her latest, "The Living and the Dead," has a more folksy, Americana feel, complemented by the guitar work of M. Ward and Marc Ribot.

The sweetness of Holland's voice can overcome even the most somber of songs. Although the melancholy "The Future" opens with a maudlin line ("Everything around here makes me sad"), the song morphs from explicit break-up talk into a metaphor about painting and dreams that is both entrancing and devastating. "Fox in Its Hole" is a smolderingly seductive number that pairs an airy guitar line with Holland's alluring coo.

Holland still sounds a bit Cat Power-esque at times: The jazzy flair of "Sweet Loving Man" especially channels Chan Marshall's sultry voice). But there are worse singers to resemble. The strength of the songs on "Living" (despite being just 40 minutes long) far outweighs any sound-alike comparisons that may arise.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 31 October 2008, Page WE07
.: The Living and the Dead on