Jolie Holland's is a voice that attempts to transcend the new and encompass the old through the medium of American music. Like Ralph Stanley told her, "I don't even know what bluegrass music is--I consider myself a soul singer." So, yes, its the blues, and the tunes our grandparents hummed on unpaved highways, but its the same songs that coaxed tears out of the punk rock boy at the bar. The ladies swayed, the street kids hooted with bright eyes, the hip hop composer unselfconsciously slipped his hand over his heart, and your momma tapped her foot. New time old time: spooky American fairytales.
Tom Waits chooses Catalpa as one of his three favorite Albums of 2003!
Click on 'Long List of Nominees'
either click on Tom Waits or scroll down to find Catalpa.
Jolie Holland's Catalpa, although only released in November, it was named on
2003 Top Albums of the Year lists as diverse as:
San Francisco Chronicle, Sonic Magazine (Sweden) and Maxim Magazine
"See What The Critics Are Saying About Jolie Holland"....
Sunday Times (UK)
3 out of 3 stars! Pop album of the week!
...I can't honestly remember how Catalpa beat dozens of other anonymous cd's to the top of the in-tray, but it will emerge as one of the albums of the year....Some songs have been stripped back so far that they no longer have any relationship with American Folk and Blues, instead sounding as if they've wafted in from Mali's Festival in the Desert. Others suggest Billie Holliday grappling with Appalachian mountain music. Strange organic rhythms of indeterminable origin pulse softly, often at odds with the melody. Holland drifts on and off the microphone. There is some whistling. You will be stunned into silence. You will not know why.
(Stewart Lee) Feb '04
...it wields an oddly compelling spell
(Colin Irwin) Feb '04
Rolling Stone Germany
4 out of 5 stars!
...the basement tapes of a Texan of whom one will hear a lot of in the future. "Alley Flowers" the first song on this through and through stunning record is a spook: muffled drums and seemingly aimless sounding bells blur the look at a strangely played guitar and the Texan Jolie Holland sings a rapt song. but how!....it's a ghost-ride through what one associates with the origins of American music.....everything can be found in this 5 minute long sÃ©ance which disappears in fog just like it emerged.
(Jorn Schluter) Feb '04
Voluptuous, hypnotic, more than a little distracted - Jolie Holland's voice could be that of the strange cookoo bird in Clarence Ashley's haunted old Appalachian ballad. ...Holland's hornlike, sometimes wordless phrasing is anything but quaint; singing just about everywhere but on the beat, she's obviously listened as closely to Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" as she has to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." Not just the sum of things you've heard before, these knowing, unvarnished work tapes constitute a sort of transcendental blues, an act of love and theft by a child who's clearly got her own.
(Bill Friskics-Warren) Feb '04
4 out of 5 stars!
...Holland has crafted a simultaneously fresh, ageless and timeless debut.
(Dave Simpson) Jan '04
Jolie Holland sings spooky American fairy tails in a strange and beautiful way. At 28, she's about to release one of the most subtly startling debut albums of recent years. Holland's debut album, 'Catalpa' happened almost by accident. Recorded in a variety of front rooms, it was never actually intended for release...it was picked up by Epitaph's ANTI- imprint, home to heroes and fans Tom Waits and Nick Cave as well as Solomon Burke and Merle Haggard. That is some heady roster, but then 'Catalpa' is some remarkable record. On it, Holland's voice quivers and trills and floats like a ghost over bent and broken rhythms of pure and primitive Americana. It's delicate stuff of rural texture with gypsy bell and Indian drum, boho waltz and Cajun shimmy. [Holland] herself plays fiddle, piano and guitar and sings like Appalachian Billie Holiday. (Ross Fortune) Jan '04 Paste The sound conjures up images of dusty Delta roads and cotton fields, Alan Lomax out in front of a tarpaper shack with a field microphone and a primitive tape recorder capturing for posterity the songs of an obscure blues master. Then the voice sings, Â³Some people say you got a psychedelic presence/Shinin in the park with a bioluminescense.Â² Wait a minute. Rewind. What in the world is this? What it is, is Jolie Holland, and the album is Catalpa, a series of homemade demos that mix [many styles]...and a songwriting talent of poetic grace...HollandÂ¹s voice is a remarkably supple instrument; and her phrasing and the way she sidles up to notes is nearly miraculous. You want the slick version of this stuff? Try Bonnie Raitt or Alison Krauss. Catalpa is flawed like a diamond is flawed, and it shines with a one-of-a-kind brilliance.
(Andy Whitman) Feb '04
The Observer (UK)
Meant as a demo album, the dreamy, distant atmosphere of Catalpa has turned the record into an instant cult.....Holland calls her music 'new time, old time, spooky American fairy tales', a fair description of its gothic and pastoral charms...A low-fi, high-intensity tour de force. (Neil Spencer) Feb '04
The Age - Melbourne, Australia
4 out of 4 stars!
... it's almost more like she's singing from beyond the grave - with lines such as "nobody sings like Mary Sue Bell/nobody prays like Willie McTell/nobody walks a mile in my shoes/like I do." Of course, she also rhymes "psychedelic presence" with "bioluminescence," so it's clear Holland is no stick in the mud revivalist; her music is a curious mix of tradition and experimentation. (Anthony Carew) Jan '04
Chicago Sun Times
...revel in the haunting vocals and retro charms of Jolie Holland...Catalpa, which rewards repeat listeners with sweet melodies and a down-home approach that make it seem as if these tapes were unearthed by the Library of Congress in some sort of cultural archeological dig in the Appalachians. It's a work of unsettling beauty that evinces a sense of dÃ©jÃ vu.
(Jeff Wisser) Jan '04
Some artists gain affection through accessibility; others impress with grand accomplishment. And then there are those like Jolie Holland, who seem to hear things the rest of us can't. [She] wields a voice like something a schizophrenic coalminer's daughter stole from a Sufi mystic's grave...it takes hard listening to find the thread of sense that runs through her crazy-quilted reveries, but once you've grasped hold, you wonder at the mind that put it all together.
(Pamela Murray Winters) Jan '04
The Independent (UK) Saturday Entertainment Guide
4 out of 5 stars!
Texan wanderer Holland releases her debut solo album and is a stark, spooky, gothic gem. Fragilvocals weave over improvised guitar, ukulele and fiddle with a dreaminess that evokes the days of the Carter family and Jimmie Rogers on a barebones production.
(Tim Perry) Jan '04
The Independent (UK) main review
4 out of 5 stars! Album of the week!
Roughly recorded, prizing spontaneity and spirit over technique and clarity - there's even a cough - Catalpa features songs about loneliness and little birds, lost romantic opportunities and ghosts, set to sparse arrangements of guitar, muted banjo, harmonica and percussion, with discreet touches of electric guitar, musical saw or whistling as decoration. Recommended.
(Andy Gill) Jan '04
...She must have thought [her former band] the Be Good Tanya pared-down acoustics were overblown, for her own debut is like a field recording, full of hiss and crackle as she sings her spooky fairy tales over an acoustic guitatherein, of course, lies its back-porch appeal.
(Nigel Williamson) Jan '04
Times Daily Mirror (UK)
4 out of 5 stars!
Jolie's collection of home recordings was originally intended solely for distribution at her shows. But celebrity fan campaigned for an official release. Not hard to hear why the mix of old timey tunes, wounded delta blues and Cajun waltzes suggest Jolie has a direct line to a dark, secret American past. A fascinating debut album.
(Gavin Martin) Jan '04
Holland's debut, Catalpa, finds her wrapping Billie Holiday's phrasing around narratives spookier than a Tobe Hooper production. And while there are undercurrents of traditional folk, gospel, and blues, there are also the inimitable hallmarks of classic country - the warmth of a smoky gin joint and the warble of a gravel road. The bare-bones arrangements of tunes like "All The Morning Bird" and "I Wanna Die" reveal a vulnerability as chilling as anything in Johnny Cash's American Recordings series.
(Andy Langer) Jan '04
CMJ New Music Monthly
With her haunting ruminations on early 20th Century American folk music, Jolie Holland almost makes Gillian Welch sound slick and moder.At no time, however, does Catalpa sound like a sober PBS documentary slowly panning over sepia-toned photographs as banjos plink in the backgrounTom Waits (who picked Catalpa for his short-list) was no doubt moved by Holland's ability to deliver both pastoral beauty and apocalyptic terror in tracks like "I Wanna Die," an ironic singalong slice of Appalachia. Bliss and tragedy join hands again for "All The Morning Birds," which ponders loved ones who have passed. "I'm telling you now/ You are the stars that I'll follow endlessly," she sings. Songs like these are neither old nor new: They are timeless.
(Steve Ciabattoni) Dec '03
Among the most stunning debuts of 2003by this strikingly talented singer who sounds like Billie Holiday covering Cat Power versions of Appalachian folk songs. Holland helped found Canadian alt-folk act the Be Good Tanyas, and, although she left them due to creative differences, her music is similar to that of the Tanyas--just stranger, sparser, and more haunting. The most apt reference point might be the '60s folk singer Karen Dalton, but Holland's voice is so strong and sweet the nearest analog might actually be Van Morrison circa 1968. Her voice floats about like the loveliest bumblebee in flight on "All the Morning Birds," while the ghosts of Bessie Smith and Geechie Wiley are channeled on the acoustic blues stomp "Black Hand Blues."
(Mike McGonigal) Dec '03
Like some dusty relic exhumed from another era, Catalpa weaves disparate strands of music history into an alluring, exotic future.
(David Peisner) Dec '03
One Way Magazine Cover Story
Sounding at times like an aged blues singer on a scratchy 78..This modern young woman from Texas has channeled the soul of the blues and parlayed a collection of basement-style tapes into one of the most unique recording debuts in recent memory..And if the simple yet spicy tunes offered as appetizers by Catalpa are any indication, Jolie Holland is cooking up one hell of a main course, with many meals to come.
(Lynne Bronstein) Dec '03
San Francisco Chronicle
...throughout this remarkable debut, there is also an eerie, haunting feel, sounds from other times and places unified by Holland's ageless voice. She sounds like a little girl and then like an old woman, sometimes both at once. Holland's new label mate Tom Waits picked "Catalpa" for the short-list (www.shortlistofmusic.com), writing, "Her music is like creek-dipping at Birdland."
(Joel Selvin) Nov03
Thanks to an underground buzz, her crafty basement tape recording is one happy accident of refreshingly underproduced, heady Americana that was never intended to reach an audience wider than the back porch. Taking cues from vocal jazz, backwoods blues and moaning Appalachia, Holland, a co-founder of the equally impressive Be Good Tanyas, has created an unconventional collection of compelling arrangements. Her log-cabin vocals are rife with graceful trills and float ghostlike through crooked melodie.
(Robin Aigner) Nov '03
All Music Guide
4 out of 5 stars!
...[Holland's] images are rich, though stark and Gothic; they sound transposed. While her worldview is mostly modern, its articulation is rooted in a mythical, metonymic America that ceased to exist long before a Greil Marcus ever thought about writing Invisible Republi[In Hollans songs] the present and the past intermingle, where street corners and figures like Jesus and Zora Neale Hurston are evoked as relational archetypes, effortlessl.in the grain of her voice one can hear Holland as every tired, homeless woman who has ever wondered how she slid so far into despai..leaving its ghost traces in the heart and mind of the listener.
(Thom Jurek) Nov '03
Catalpa, San Francisco singer-songwriter phenomenon Jolie Holland's first solo CD. She does for folk, fiddle and country what Billie Holliday did for the blues, wrapping her unforgettable voice around each note and taking it somewhere you wouldn't have ever thought of; though the minute you hear her, you realize it was the only right place the note could go.
(Sheerly Avni) Jul '03
With her flute-like, fluttering, multi-octave, voice, Jolie Holland sings spooky lullabies that hush and charShe plays anything stringed, (piano, fiddle, guitar, banjo, ukulele), and whistles in perfect pitch...she's the real McCoy
(Jillian Steinberger) Jul '03
West Coast Performer
Holland's voice bears the weight of a thousand stories. Is heartbreaking yet soothing, unusual yet familiar. Her songs hum with freshness yet evoke something sacred from decades past, when musicians lived by cultivating their craft and their craft compelled them to live. She whistles with the perfect trill of a whippoorwill and can play the strings of her little red ukulele just as soon as she can create a masterpiece on a pawnshop fiddle or a haunting melody on her toy accordion.
(Lisa Butterworth) Jun '03
SF Bay Guardian
...Holland manages to make the music fresh as well as keep it reaHolland's songs strike a sustained chord of wanderlust and longing. "Catalpa Waltz" and "All the Morning Birds" echo the raw recordings of troubadours such as Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTelThe opener "Alley Flowers" includes a slave-chant rhythm and a rattling chains accompaniment that oozes like a primordial stew. Catalpa has its sunnier and more psychedelic moments, culled from such disparate sources as Syd Barrett, Zora Neale Hurston, and W.B. Yeats in the evergreen folk-blues tradition of recycling. All of the songs are highlighted by Holland's plaintive voice, which brings to mind a Southern-fried Billie Holiday.
(James Yamasaki) May '03
"An amazing San Francisco-based artist releases what could be the album of the year.....She sings like a young old-time mountain woman with one foot in the past, one foot in the now. Her voice is comfortable, recognizable, yet different. It's a voice that's sweet and fragile, a voice that understands both hard times and love. When you listen to Holland, you hear a real person singing. At times she just seems to be conveying the story, in the most matter-of-fact manner. For some of Catalpa it's as if a tape recorder had been set up in a room of a San Francisco apartment and Holland simply played her favorite songs, which just might be how some of this wonderful album was made."
Michael Goldberg (founder of neumu.net, Sonicnet and 10 yrs editor/writer at Rolling Stone Magazine) Feb '03
Check out the artist's website:
1. Alley Flowers
2. All the Morning Birds
3. Roll my Blues
4. Black Hand Blues
5. December 1999
6. I Wanna Die
7. Demon Lover Improv
8. Catalpa Waltz
9. the Littlest Birds
10. Wandering Angus
11. Periphery Waltz
12. Ghost Waltz