Jolie Holland (born September 11, 1976 at Houston, Texas) is an American singer and performer who combines elements of folk, traditional country, jazz, and blues.
Over the span of her career, she has knotted together a century of American song—jazz, blues, soul, rock and roll—into some stew that is impossible to categorize with any conventional critical terminology. This is her burden and her gift, to know all of these American songs of the last ten decades in her head and her heart, and to have to wrestle with their legacy.
She dives straight to the pathos of a song the way the very greatest singers, singers like Mavis Staples, or Al Green, or Skip James, or Tom Waits do. Upon first encounter her songs seem challenging, perhaps unsettling at times, but as so many poets and rockers have shown us (from Dante Alighieri to William Blake to Sylvia Plath to Patti Smith to Nick Cave to Mark E. Smith) that’s where the beauty lies.
As evident on her first recordings, Holland apparently has no fear of the truth, and there is no emotional core that she cannot reach in song. In fact she thrives on the red hot centre of a musical composition, in all its strange and brutal detail.
This Autumn, Jolie Holland will unveil her latest album, Haunted Mountain; intricately connected with friend and collaborator Buck Meek’s record of the same name, Haunted Mountain features five songs co-written by the pair, including the mesmerizing title track.
Holland explains: “I wrote the song a couple years ago, and it existed as two verses for many months. Buck added a third verse, and then we both began performing it with our bands. When he told me he was including our song on his next record, I was extremely pleased at the weirdness – I was going to release a version as well. Then he told me he wanted to name his record Haunted Mountain, “…only if you’re not already naming your record Haunted Mountain.” Well, that had been the name of my next record for quite a while. We thought about it for a minute and decided it was bizarre and wonderful. Buck’s Haunted Mountain is out in late August. My Haunted Mountain comes out in the autumn. I love how the image of a haunted mountain is so open ended. I love how fun it is to say. I am enormously pleased that Buck chose it as his album name too.”
The nine-track stunner delves into a treasure trove of themes, from anti-colonial thought to homelessness, all while exploring the profound significance of being in reciprocity with nature. “When the world is sacred, we are moved to protect it,” Holland explains. “Elves stop highways in Iceland. Faeries save forests in Ireland. Even though the numinous is beyond reason, it’s a motivating, communicative idea. You can tell it to a kid, and when the kid grows up they might understand it ecologically, or they might understand it aesthetically. The numinous is a huge idea,” she continues. “An old friend of mine saw the Jordan River at a place in Palestine where it was just a little creek. His description opened up this realization to me: every river is sacred to someone. Every inch of Earth is someone’s storied, sung homelands. No one needs to understand this more than settler Americans.”
Working closely with her talented collaborators, Adam Brisbin and Justin Veloso, Jolie recorded the core of the album as a trio before adding layers of intriguing overdubs. Ever the innovator, she employed some unconventional recording techniques, like capturing the sound of knuckles rapping on the piano and incorporating the sounds of cicadas in album closer What It’s Worth. The intriguing atmosphere of Feet On The Ground was created by running a drum machine through an amp into a vast barn, every sonic experiment a testament to her willingness to push the boundaries of her art.
Haunted Mountain is a triumph of boundless creativity, profound lyricism, and thought-provoking artistry. With poetic storytelling awash in a dream-like sonic palette, Holland invites audiences on an alluring journey that transcends genres and leaves an indelible mark on the heart and mind.
“Noir, lived in, caustic, not entirely of this time” (Aquarium Drunkard).