In both her physical worlds and her musical worlds, Jolie Holland has always been a bit of a drifter. A Houston native who spent a while in the Bay Area, she recently packed up and headed east for Brooklyn and, in the process, tweaked her sound toward a more country-rock vibe.
Holland's past three records contained an overt, timeless feel that drew upon classic jazz and folk traditions and arrangements. But what Holland possesses—and The Living & The Dead continues to highlight—is such a distinct, unique voice that captures the essence of human emotion in ways other singers struggle with. "Corrido Por Buddy," while winding and upbeat, conveys a powerful picture of sadness and struggle Holland has with a strung-out friend. "Palmyra" continues painting this picture, anchored by veteran guitarist Marc Ribot blending well with Holland's musings. Her slow, folky past shows up a few times, on "You Painted Yourself In" and "Sweet Loving Man," but they continue to show Holland's broad emotional range; the latter is a convincing, optimistic love song.
In her past, Holland's never been one to champion optimism, but this time around you get the feeling that she's content in starting a new chapter in her musical life, one that celebrates instead of wallows.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.