The Sweet Sounds of Jolie Holland

June 29th, 2011

Jolie Holland – The Bowery Ballroom – June 28, 2011

(Photo: Scott Irvine)

Jolie Holland celebrated the release of her new album, Pint of Blood, with a show at The Bowery Ballroom last night, treating the crowd to much of the new material along with some choice renditions of songs by Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. Holland’s choice of artists to cover during her set clearly reflect some of her musical influences, and although her music is deeply rooted in folk, country, blues and rock, as she and her band, the Grand Chandeliers, played through the songs from Pint of Blood, her lyrical perspective and delivery offered a unique departure from her musical idols.

Holland began the set with album-opener “All Those Girls,” a slow-burning, gritty country number, delivered in her deep, velvety voice with tough conviction. The singer’s main facial expression during the show—in between smirks and smiles—hinted at the essence of her songs, which exist in a realm slightly askew of your standard singer-songwriter fare. Take for example, the love song “Wreckage,” which Holland innocently distinguished as “not a romantic love song,” before belting out the brutal lines “if disappointment was like a drug, I overdosed again/ I can’t take the razor sharpness of your crooked grin/ I lost the war, I lost it all/ I can’t get it back again/ I can’t set you right when you go into a spin/ all I can do is survive the wreckage from you.”

Songs like these may not paint Holland as an idealist, yet her music doesn’t ring of misanthropy either. Throughout the show, she played us her subjective experience, full of all the good and not-so-good realities. For lyrics that are not sugarcoated in the least, they certainly sounded sweet. —Alena Kastin