Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton
Texan Jolie Holland
was only briefly a member of the Be Good Tanyas, from 1999 to 2000, but that was apparently enough for her to develop a rapport with cofounder Samantha Parton. Six years ago Parton suffered a concussion in a car accident, and as she healed, doctors discovered an aneurysm and a benign tumor behind her left eye. When she finally resumed touring in 2016, it was with Holland—in fact, most of Parton's musical activity since getting back on her feet has been with her old bandmate. Last year they released a duo album called Wildflower Blues
(Cinquefoil), and to my ears it's better than anything either of them has done before. The pair play their first local show since the record dropped on Sunday at SPACE in Evanston
moves between soul, country, and folk, and Parton and Holland's liquid harmonies smooth out the stylistic shifts. I have trouble with Holland's most prominent vocal tic—a drawl that sometimes makes mush of her words—but it's not as noticeable when she's blending her singing with Parton's. The album includes three fantastic covers: On Townes Van Zandt's "You Are Not Needed Now," the vocal harmonies feel earthy and ethereal, as Holland's soulful, beautiful lead glides over an organ-stoked folk-rock groove. The duo also bring a fragile grace to a delicate reading of Michael Hurley's idiosyncratic ballad "Jocko's Lament" and amble through a charmingly loose take on the Bob Dylan obscurity "Minstrel Boy."
The original songs are even better, though. "Make It Up to Me" is a drifting Memphis-style soul ballad whose gossamer filigree and absence of low end makes it feel pleasantly weightless. "Johnny Said to May" is a dirgelike ballad whose droning organ and splattery, jazzlike drums let its sense of time expand and contract, and Holland's heavy vibrato edges toward disintegration before Parton's harmony singing swoops in to rescue it on the choruses. Below you can hear the hypnotic, bluesy title track, where Parton sings like the sun shining through a gossamer fabric and Holland threads that same fabric with insistently probing violin.
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