Local Wire

Jolie Holland

Two years ago, Ms. Holland sat in her bedroom with a couple of friends to demo up a couple of sophisticated folk tunes and make a CD she could sell from the edge of the stage at gigs. She called it Catalpa, and her fans quickly began burning copies and sending them to friends. Before you could say "next big thing," the demo/album had traveled the globe and taken on a life of its own, generating rave reviews. Tom Waits and other heavies weighed in with words of praise, and Catalpa was scooped up by Anti for a proper release that preserved the album in all of its lo-fi, productionless charm.

The follow-up, Escandida, has better production values, but the qualities that made Catalpa so unique are still in effect. Holland's vocals retain their languid, just-got-out-of-bed casualness; the arrangements are clever without calling attention to themselves; and although the tracks use marimba, musical saw, ukulele, sax and drums, the band remains in the background as Holland's pliable drawl pulls you into her slightly skewed visions of the world.

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J. Poet