Blackbird Fly

Jolie Holland returns to her old hometown with the Tom Waits seal of approval

"That was horrifying," Holland says. "I couldn't sleep or eat for a week -- maybe like six hours a night and one meal a day. I was fucked up, so nervous, freakin' out all week. By the time that I found out he loved it, I was so exhausted that it really didn't make much of an impression. I was like, 'Thank god. Now I'll see you later. I'm going to sleep.'" (While Holland was sleeping, Waits went to work and nominated the album for the 2003 Shortlist Prize that eventually went to Damien Rice.)

And now we have Escondida, which seems to be destined to make a bunch of short lists of top rootsy CDs this year. The lazy comparison is to Norah Jones -- another Texan who hacks a rootsy path -- but Holland is edgier, rooted in older material, and if she's equally languid, she's also a much more dramatic and melismatic singer. "I don't really care that people make that comparison, but she's definitely not a studied influence of mine," she says. "At all."

A cross between Toni Price and Ricki Lee Jones with a Southern accent strikes me as the better critical shorthand description -- as Holland shares both Price's affinity for Depression-era Southern pop -- by which I mean country and blues -- and Jones's boozy-sounding vocals. (Albeit in Holland's case, "Goodbye California" is ruined for me by her accent, which sounds so over-the-top that she seems to be doing an impression of the way a Texan would talk instead of just letting it flow. See also Williams, Lucinda and Griffith, Nanci in this file.)

Holland ponders a shot of good old-fashioned morphine.
Kate Kunath
Holland ponders a shot of good old-fashioned morphine.


Thursday, August 19; for information, call 713-521-0521
Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive

But hell, that's just a quibble. Escondida and the talent behind it shouldn't stay hidden for long.

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