Best Nouveau Old-Timey Musician - 2004
Ever get in one of those moods, the kind where people all seem the same, busy going to the gym and buying groceries, while you wonder if there isn't something more to life? If you're lucky, at about that time you'll run across a live performance by Jolie Holland and emerge feeling simultaneously ignorant of and comforted by her sharp, creepy Americana. Holland's self-described "music nerd" tendencies seem to have afforded her a broad range of influences: She sounds like Billie Holiday meets Mother Maybelle Carter meets Huddie Ledbetter, after they've all been force-fed Nirvana's Bleach. The result is arrestingly weird, in the best and most unselfconscious way. Holland's first album, Catalpa, is a bold and wise move, made up as it is of recordings she intended only for friends -- "stripped-down production" is something of an understatement. While it is fantastic and worthy of all the hoo-ha it's gotten, the record is merely a calling card; Holland's many fans are delighted by her first formal visit, Escondida, in which she gives free rein to the instrumentation we knew she had up the sleeve of that vintage dress.