After several months of surviving mainly on a diet of noise and tinnitus-inducing performances at some of the city’s bigger music venues, it is always nice to return to the quieter reaches of Leaf and take in some stripped-down musings. Tonight we witness one artist in ascendancy as well as a veteran at work in the form of JOLIE HOLLAND.
First up is AGP, the alias of local musician and producer Andrew Gordon Parry, who gives us an impressive and intriguing look into his creative processes. As he often reminds us, the songs he is performing tonight are still ideas in development, but with his simple set-up of reverb-laden electric guitar and vocals they already sound fully formed and honed. The dark and brooding tones of the tracks are interspersed with wry, witty comments that maintain the balance between the macabre and the humorous present in Parry’s lyrics.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, headliner Jolie Holland has been relentlessly involved in the music industry since the release of her debut album Catalpa in 2003. Having sang backing vocals on a plethora of other artists’ recordings, and being cited as a favourite by Tom Waits, expectations are understandably high inside the crowded venue. From the first strains of her incredible voice the audience are suitably transfixed. Her delivery is rich and soulful whilst maintaining a delicacy that imbues it with subtlety, and her fairly unique way of articulating her lyrics gives the songs a strange and interesting angle.
Taken from her latest album, Wine Dark Sea, single Out On The Wine Dark Sea is a stand-out track in a setlist of similarly great songs. Its peculiar rhythms and stilted guitars offer a fresh take on traditional folk and country music, with the base elements of these forms being stripped back and pulled apart to create something new and re-invigorated. Performing tonight as a two-piece, Holland’s sparse guitar style is balanced by a blinding display from her lead guitarist, who adds counterpoints to her melodies and generally just has a good old wail all over the fretboard. As well as a wide selection of her own tracks, Holland also pays tribute to another Texas-born musician, the legendary Daniel Johnston, with a delicate rendering of his classic Walking The Cow.
It is a touching moment and one that perfectly exemplifies Holland’s raw talent as she encapsulates the mood of the song and turns it into a transcendental moment. This is clearly someone who knows how to plunge into the depths of musical feeling and emerge with a fully formed artefact for others to admire, and we have all been in admiration of that tonight.