Jolie Holland offers a pint of wisdom on the music business
by Allan Wigney
Jolie Holland, the Texas-born Brooklynite whose emotive voice from another era turned heads seven years ago through a laidback, old-timey blues album called Esondida, is not coming to Bluesfest to sing the blues.
“Yeah,” she confirms. “Who is though?”
Point taken. And as Holland’s recently released fourth album, the rootsily rockin’ Pint of Blood, makes clear this singer and songwriter will not be categorized so easily. Each album has been a step forward, Holland’s voice calling across the ages as her music continues to explore new directions. But while it may not be the blues, Holland notes those roots continue to inform her evolving sound.
“I do love the blues,” she says. “I’m from the south. My grandmother from New Orleans is part black. I feel I have as much right as anyone to sing the blues. But I always have lots and lots of songs, and when I put a record together I see it as like putting together a bouquet. I don’t feel a separation of styles ― every song has its own artistic parameters.”
“The funny thing is,” she adds, “everybody’s a blues singer now, even if they don’t know it.”
It’s fair to say everybody’s also a folk singer, a label attached to Holland during her days with The Be Good Tanyas, whose The Littlest Birds the singer revisits on Pint of Blood. There are, Holland reports, other songs on the album that have been waiting years for their moment. As, it seems has Holland. Or, at least, Pint of Blood reviews that decry her rightful place in the mainstream having been occupied by “trite mindless garbage by pseudo-artists like Lady Gaga” are proclaiming as much.
Holland is flattered by such sentiments. But has a different take on the situation.
“We’re not in the same business, really,” she says of herself and Lady Gaga. “That’s people who don’t understand that in a way that’s not even music. Or it’s not just about music. People like Lady Gaga use music in such a different way. You know, people don’t bring my music to the gym; people listen to my music in an old-fashioned sense. It’s a whole different thing.”
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