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Album Review

Jolie Holland – “Catalpa” – [Anti- Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   A Library, CD

This is San Francisco-based Jolie Holland’s first solo release since co-founding and then leaving Be Good Tanyas, though it wasn’t originally intended to be. The tracks are mostly demo tapes that weren’t supposed to go “any further than my neighborhood” as she says. There is an unfinished feeling to many of the songs, and she coughs and laughs on some tracks. In another, you can hear an engineer dropping something (and he even gets a percussion credit). One song was recorded before it was finished, and Ms. Holland helpfully includes the extra lyrics of the finished version in her liner notes.

The result is that listening to this CD feels like crouching outside her window and eavesdropping as she sings her mysterious songs of loneliness and restlessness. She’s accompanied by her guitar and little else. At times it sounds a little like a field recording of old Appalachian folk (due to the way she sings and her picking style, I think) until you listen to the lyrics, consider the whole thing, and feel the influence of Woody Guthrie and Syd Barrett. The latter even gets a co-writing credit on The Littlest Birds.

There is something deeply American about the rootless feel of this release.

–Hunter Gatherer

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