Raised in Texas and New Orleans and translocated to San Francisco and Canada, Jolie Holland
found a dark, folksy warmth by way of Vancouver's Be Good Tanyas and songwriting by way of fusing lovesick blues and a bit of Beat-era riffing. Her tone and phrasing are gorgeous, if your idea of gorgeous is a pickled trumpet player fidgeting with a mute or Billie Holiday murmuring in her sleep. Critics have compared Holland to Norah Jones, but her sound is more skid row than Starbucks. On her Anti debut, Escondida
, she rummages through pre-World War II speakeasies and parlors, finding Guthrie-esque ballads, Satan-certified confessions, gospel chants and smoky Cotton Club swing -- after half the band has gone backstage to get a fix. "Give me that old-fashioned morphine," she calls through the haze. "It was good enough for Billy Burroughs." So too are a few of her lines: "I feel like a liar and a thief for taking air, for being here, unwanted" and "My purpose is to keep on dreaming." She can whistle and trill like Andrew Bird, turn a nineteenth-century British drinking song into breathless glossolalia and make you believe her when she sings a cosmic love song to her ukulele or when she begs another lover for an impossible answer: "Do you have to go crazy?/Is that the best thing that you can think to do?" A far better plan would be to catch Holland before the rest of the world catches on -- given her talent, you don't have long.