I’m a sucker for a lady with a sweet set of pipes and a singer/songwriter sensibility, which is why I love me some Jolie Holland, and have since I first heard her demo Catalpa when I was a wee baby music writer back in the day. In fact, I had the good fortune to interview her at the time, even though I had no interviewing skills to speak of, and over coffee in her San Francisco apartment, she proceeded to be one of the most gracious, open musicians I’ve had the opportunity to chat with. She’s come a long way since then, four albums to be exact, and I’ve been down with every bluesy/folksy/rocksy one of them. Because her show at the Bowery Ballroom last night landed on the release date of her new record, Pint of Blood, she, along with her current band the Grand Chandeliers, played pretty much the whole damn thing, first track to last, and it was a PLEASURE to hear live.
She kicked the night off with one of my favorite’s, album opener “All Those Girls.” It’s a deliciously downtempo tune that let’s you soak in the sincerity of Holland’s vocals, which crack and waver in all the right places. “Wreckage” was a song that hit me harder live than it did through my headphones, perhaps because of Holland’s honest introduction of it: “This is a love song. But it’s not a romantic one,” she said, with her signature side-smile before launching into the finger-snappy tune on her acoustic guitar. One of things that strikes me most about the sassy chanteuse is what an obviously comfortable performer she is. Despite a few false starts and some excessive tuning—you could tell these songs were new to the stage—she was always at ease, relaying silly anecdotes and bantering from the stage as if we were all just chillin’ in her living room, or rustic, run-down barn as would be more befitting of the music. She ended the set with the album’s closer, her rendition of “Rex’s Blues,” a song by Townes Van Zandt, who was apparently a buddy of her hippie dad when they were both young stoners hanging out in Texas. The way she does it, it’s a sweet and mournful tune, a soft kiss on the forehead after her entertaining bedtime story of an album.
Last night she came back out for a couple more tunes, leaving the stage with a cover of country singer Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown.” Whether she’s playing her own songs, or those of her favorite influences, Holland is someone I could watch on stage for days. There’s just something about her voice that hits me deep in my emo spot, and makes me feel simultaneously nostalgic and hopeful, my favorite combo.