Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Jolie Holland 

Escondida

Wednesday, May 12 2004
Comments
San Francisco singer/songwriter Jolie Holland's 2003 debut album, Catalpa, was a collection of hazy demos that nevertheless won the acclaim of critics worldwide. Now we have her first proper studio recording, Escondida, and while the intriguing murk and mumbled inscrutability of Catalpa have lessened, clearer production and enhanced instrumentation nicely illuminate Holland's mesmerizing talents.

Inspired by a panoply of American music, from front-porch folk and backwater blues to traditional country and New Orleans jazz, Holland's earthy, intimate parlor tunes are paradoxically visceral and ethereal, yet far from cloying or contrived. Holland has a superb command of guitar, piano, and ukulele, and this new album finds her well complemented by skilled musicians on everything from trumpet to musical saw. But it's her voice that is most remarkable. Resembling a mash-up of Billie Holiday, Cat Power's Chan Marshall, and megaplatinum chanteuse Norah Jones, her breathy burble transforms even the most awkward turn of phrase into a chunk of poetic beauty.

From the gypsy shuffle of "Sascha" to the toy-piano intro of "Tiny Idyll/Lil' Missy," the 12 tracks on Escondida are uniformly melodious and oddly spiritual. "Damn Shame" is a gorgeous existential piano ballad; the relatively uptempo Golden State kiss-off "Goodbye California" becomes an anthem to the state's natural beauty; and "Darlin' Ukelele" finds Holland by the ocean in San Francisco, talking to starfish and serenaded by mermaids. Escondida features two archaic covers -- the old British song "Mad Tom of Bedlam" and the Civil War-era "Faded Coat of Blue" -- but this album is no retro-fest. Rather, Holland uses her powerful voice and imagery to infuse creaky music rooted in antiquity with contemporary relevance.

About The Author

Mike Rowell

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Third Eye Blind @ The Masonic
    Third Eye Blind performed on Sunday, July 26 at The Masonic to a sold out show with the support of Dashboard Confessional & Ex-Cops. Photographs by Christopher Victorio.
  • Morrissey @ San Jose Events Center
    The last stop for Morrissey serenaded the sold out crowd during his only Northern California date on Saturday, July 25 at the San Jose Events Center. Photographs by Christopher Victorio.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular