Where: The Triple Door
When: Tuesday, October 6
Singer Jolie Holland has a spirit that feels like it comes from a bygone era. Her voice is unlike anyone else's in contemporary music and that's what makes her songs so enjoyable, either when you're listening to her recorded material or catching her live in person. That old world, or even, otherworldly songwriting acumen that exists in her lyrics can transport listeners straight out of the room and into whatever scenario she's singing about. When Holland is singing about New Orleans, you can almost feel yourself walking around the French Quarter. That's a unique gift and she put it to use last night.
During Holland's set at the Triple Door, she seemed to have a theme centered around ghosts and spirits. Her latest album is called The Living and the Dead, so it makes sense, but still there was more to it. The theme of voodoo, mambas, and Haitian zombies swirled around some of the songs she played last night, and even when she wasn't singing her own material, some of her covers like those of Townes Van Zandt felt haunted and invoked spirits of the past as well. It was a moving set of music that felt warm at times, like a giant hug, and chilling at others.Holland was joined on stage by her music partner, Grey Gersten, and those two work really well together. They also use instruments that are either handmade, or come from the late '40s and early '50s when they play. While Holland started out her set sitting at a Steinway and commented about how nice it was to play one again, she switched over to an early model Epiphone guitar for songs like "Mexico City" and "Palmyra." Gersten, meanwhile, started on an electric guitar but switched over to a bass from the '50s that he playfully calls Leroy.
A lot of the songs Holland played seemed based around places she's lived throughout her career. Some came straight out of the 9th Ward of New Orleans and others came from the Haitian neighborhood where she currently resides in New York. My favorite song that she played all night was a cover of Sonny and the Sunsets "Death Cream." It's a song that she and Gersten played even better than the original. She also played a cover of Dave Donderro's "Shooting at the Sun With a Water Gun" and crowd favorites like "Old Fashioned Morphine" and "Mad Tom of Bedlam," the latter of which she played with her handcrafted violin.
I ran into Kwab Copeland after the show and he mentioned that each time Holland comes to Seattle, her audience grows bigger. We'll see where she plays next time because last night, she certainly won over most of the folks at the Triple Door and she shouldn't have a problem packing a venue in this town again.