Album: Jolie Holland

Escondida, Anti-
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The Independent Culture

Escondida has a similar down-home charm to Holland's debut Catalpa, but a more considered, professional recording process manages to clarify her sound without destroying its gossamer tone. There's a calm, unhurried grace to her whistled intro to "Black Stars", for instance, which extends into quiet vibrato guitar chords and her own desultory vocal, seeping into the song's fibres like a watercolour stain. It's harder than you'd imagine to pull off this kind of nonchalance without seeming mannered, but Holland manages it even when serenading her "Darlin Ukelele" with ukelele, bowed saw, whistling and marimba - an instrumental blend ideally suited to her champion Tom Waits, as too are the creeping horns adorning "Old Fashioned Morphine". Apart from the frisky "Mad Tom of Bedlam" and elegaic "Faded Coat of Blue", both traditional, the songs are self-penned and reveal Holland to be a modern traditionalist akin to Laura Veirs, with a similar sense of deep-rooted values and country-blues tropes. She's particularly good at loss, longing and her own failings; in "Poor Girl's Blues" she sings: "I used to be an angel, but now I'm just like everybody else/ I left my wings in the gutter and my halo's lost, dusty on a shelf".

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