Jolie Holland with Band - Cornish Arms - 10 December 2004

The evening opened with a set from Perth singer Nathan Gaunt. Gaunt is a consummate guitarist and has a remarkably individual voice rather reminiscent of Tim Buckley. He performed several songs, mostly of his own composition including an incredible Indian influenced instrumental piece.

It signalled what was to be a night of unusual performances.

Jolie Holland live at Cornish Arms

Jolie Holland was accompanied by her band in the persons of Brian Miller on electric guitar and Dave Mihaly on percussion. A veritable giant, Dave Mihaly tapped drums, tinkled bells, chimed, clanged and rattled a tambourine, creating atmospheric effects in tandem with the creative guitar playing of Brian Miller and Jolie's guitar and violin.

The threesome created amazing music, embracing jazz, folk, blues and country, though not in the least in conventional forms. It was weird and wonderful and quite otherworldly.

Jolie Holland's performance was strange and uncanny. Her voice is ethereal yet powerful and has echoes of Billie Holliday in it. She describes her music as 'new time, old time, spooky American fairy tales'.

She hovered in the shadows and alternately played acoustic guitar and violin. She whistled on occasions - and sang her songs in her peculiar style, slurring and drawing out the words which required careful listening to distinguish the meaning. One can see how her style influenced The Be Good Tanyas who have a similar intonation.

She performed songs from her two albums Catalpa and Escondida as well as covers of other people's songs including those of Michael Hurley.

Highlights included "Alley Flowers" which had a mediaeval feel to it, "Wandering Angus", an arrangement of a poem by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, "Old Fashioned Morphine", Jolie's take on the old hymn "Give Me that Old Fashioned Religion", "The Littlest Birds" and the stark traditional ballad "Bedlam Boys"

Though it was difficult to understand the words she was singing, this was mostly due to the sound system at the Cornish Arms. She was perfectly understandable at The Basement Discs the next day.

The music was often deliberately at odds with the vocal performance though not dissonant. The arrangements were unusual but very atmospheric. It was a curiously satisfying and engaging evening's entertainment.

Review by Anne Sydenham 2004
Photos by David Trembath 2004

top / back to articles