“Enjoyably depressing New Jersey songwriter’s debut.” Considering how many songs are recorded about heartbreak and loss, it’s striking how few of them hit home with any genuine emotional connection. Luckily no one’s told Erin Moran, who materializes like some modest time-warped gene-splicing of Dusty Springfield and Chrissie Hynde with a Bacharach and David-style songbook full of sweetly painful, adult-sounding love songs, A luminously retro production by former Pulp collaborator Richard Hawley completes the picture. The kind of album that could quietly occupy space in your CD collection for years and still not give up all its secrets.
A Girl Called Eddy “A Girl Called Eddy” 4 Stars
“Delicious debut album for rainy days and Mondays” Eddy is Erin Moran, from Greenwich Village via New Jersey, who flew to Sheffield to record this with Richard Hawley producing (and his Lowedges band backing) because “the rain sited the mood of the songs”. Nor just another wordy nerd or feisty fronter, Moran exhibits gorgeously gauged soul and shrewdness on a record that – and we don’t say this lightly- sound like a new Karen Carpenter album. While the deft dolour of Cowboy Junkies or the archest alt. country filters through “Tears All over Town or “Somebody Hurt You”, her low voice and lyrical longing elevate “Girls Can Really Tear You Up Inside” and “People Used to Dream About The Future” into Hal David-writes-for-Orbison classics. Better yet, “Golden” is a “Goodbye To Love” for this millennium.
CHRIS ROBERTS (UNCUT)
A Girl Called Eddy “A Girl Called Eddy” Why do some bands insist on eponymously-titled albums, is that lazy or what? Presumably the idea is to keep it simple, so that us dumb indie kids won’t get confused and buy the wrong record. But when the title’s as obscure as this one, it seems to undermine the point of the whole thing in the first place.
But rather misplaced gripes aside, this is a heart-wrenching debut from New-Jersey born singer/songwriter Erin Moran, otherwise known as (you guessed it) Eddy.
Written at home in her New York bed-sit, these are songs of passion and heartache culminating in an impressive, if tear-jerking entrance onto the musical stage.
Vocally she’s clearly taken note of some of the great female influences- Dusty Springfield, Karen Carpenter and Aimee Mann especially – while the mood is introspective, somber and understated. From opening track “Tears All Over Town” she had me hooked. A real grower, it sets the tone for the entire record before the acoustic folk melancholia builds and builds, reaching new heights with ‘Girls can Really Tear You Up Inside’ and album closer ‘Golden’. Eddy is crying her way through her songs, but doing so with panache as well as heart. That said, when she wants to, Eddy knows how to rock out as well. ‘The Long Goodbye’ is a simmering slab of lo-fi rock n’roll, guitars buzzing against her husky vocal.
There’s barely a dud track on ‘A Girl Called Eddy’ and even those that you’re not sure about, when you least expect it hit you with a tug on the heart-stings that tear down your emotional defenses. Not since Portishead’s Beth Gibbons partnered Rustin Man on 2002’s standout album has a woman’s voice melted my heart quite so much. But if that hasn’t given you enough of a reason to go and buy it, maybe this will do the trick. Produced by one of Sheffield’s favourite musical sons – the highly-esteemed Richard Hawley – Eddy is backed by his band. And it was recorded in our own fair city. If that’s not enough, then dam, I give up.
Exposed rating – 4 “fingers” of 5 (Exposed)
A Girl Called Eddy “A Girl Called Eddy” 4 Stars
ERIN MORAN, for she is the Girl whose record label likes to call her Eddy, writes and sings as if she has nothing to prove. Every track on this mouth-wateringly luscious CD whispers, “This is what I do, love it or leave it.” Her songs, steeped in ‘60s classicism, make almost no concessions to the intervening 40 years, aside from the tasteful inclusion of a few subtle electronic textures and ambiences here and there. When, in the debut single, Somebody Hurt You, she suffers exquisitely on behalf of every broken-hearted lover everywhere, it’s as if Britney, Whitney, Mariah, Shania and all the rest never existed, because Moran treats her melodies with respect rather than as launching pads from which to deviate on the flimsiest of whims. She knows that emotion doesn’t consist entirely of vocal calisthenics, and that sometimes resignation and understatement can be shatteringly powerful.
She also understands why the classics of the past became classics, and used that knowledge to devastating effect. It can’t be coincidence, for example, that the opening four seconds of Heartache deceive the listener into expecting Karen Carpenter to sing Close To You, before the song shifts into completely different, and much more melancholic, territory, it’s a neat manipulation, conjuring up one set of images, then allowing them to dissolve, thus intensifying the songs impact.
Similarly, with sympathetic production from Richard Hawley, she conjures fleeting echoes of Bacharach, Motown, and in the middle of the yearningly gorgeous People Who Used To Dream About The Future, briefly unleashes a huge voice that suggests she could have given Dusty Springfield a run for her money.
Fortunately, her songs are much more than mere homages. In Tears All Over Town she dips into areas that only a contemporary self-torturer like Lisa Germano would normally attempt, and the vibrant pulse of The Long Goodbye is a cunning disguise in which to hide a song as drenched in regret as anything by countrified innovator Shelby Lynne.
Inevitably, not every song hits the mark. Her lyric for Did You See The Moon Tonight, for example, feels somewhat contrived. Little Bird, despite those killer lines about, “searching for hope in places where hope just don’t exist”, can’t quite breathe new life into that terminally ailing avian cliché. But anyone who can take a rhythm as relentlessly jaunty as the keyboard pattern that propels Life Thru The Same Lens and make it sound unutterably sad should be forgiven the occasional lapse.
Moran boasts a voice as pure and resonant as Eva Cassidy, but being able to couple that voice with her remarkable songwriting skills makers her significantly more intriguing. These are not her interpretations of other people’s feelings. These are songs born of her own experience, the songs of her life. And yours.
(Mojo 4 June 2004)
Danny Cohen “Dannyland” 3 Stars
Way ahead of the pack for the dubious honour of weirdest album of the year has to be this sophomore effort from Danny Cohen, a classic outsider primitive in the vein of Daniel Johnston or Wild Man Fischer, and by the sound of things, probably just as frequently recumbent on the analyst’s couch. I never heard Cohen’s debut Museum of Dannys, but the mere fact that it appeared on avant-guardian Hohn Zorn’s Tzadzik label, home of all manner of experimental Jewish music, is dome indication of its likely oddness. For Dannyland, Cohen has been given the run of a 40-track studio, and the results are densely-layered, claustrophobic arrangements heavy on horror-movie organ drones, lachrymose lap steel and spooky theremin whines, over which Cohen reflects upon the detritus of his own life and offers odd, discomfiting observations of the world he inhabits- a murky territory of self-medication, tattered hippie dreams, laments for dead heroes, memories of old Twilight Zone episodes, and recollections of a troubled childhood. Favouring shambling discordancy over tuneful order, it’s a tough listen until you start to hear things Cohen’s way, but there’s enough bluff humour and enigmatic poetry in his lyrics to reward those brave enough to embark on a journey to Dannyland.
Jolie Holland Escondida
Texan Tanya goes solo
“Holland journeys from toy piano to self-taught songster”
BY THE age of six Jolie Holland was writing songs on her toy piano; now in her late 20s she is releasing her debut studio album.
The Texan-born singer-songwriter, who added fiddle and guitar to her skills by her early teens, has created the blues-folk-jazz and pop-tinged album Escondida. While having been the founder of the international folk outfit Be Good Tanyas and releasing the solo record Catalpa. Which was never intended for public ears, this will be Holland’s first truly solo professional studio album.
“With Escondida I wrote a lot of those songs before I formed Be Good Tanyas,” Holland said.
“Sascha and Poor Girls Blues were written before Be Good Tanyas existed.
“I have a strong filter on—I’m very critical of my own work.
“But if I wrote a song 10 years ago and still like it, I will still play it.
“Poor Girls Blues I wrote nine years ago.
“So Escondida is a mix of stuff that is new and a few that are older.”
It’s not just the time it has taken to produce the album that created its diversity, but also the variety of genres Holland tends to listen to.
“I am sort of influenced by Blind Willy McTell, but mostly I hear something and it strikes me,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in lot of different types of music, having been in hip hop projects, electric blues bands and jazz bands.
“I was a classical musician when I was a lid and all I wanted was music lessons, but I never got them. “But I’m glad I didn’t at that point, because everything I’ve learnt I’ve figured out on my own.
I’m glad I spent all those years teaching myself stuff as a kid”
by Kelle White (The Advocate 21 May 2004)
Jolie Holland “Escondida”
It is the voice that first strikes you, that ethereal tone, the unusual ability to slide up and down notes with apparent ease, and an almost jazz-like phrasing within a folk songwriters framework. Born and raised in Texas with Creole New Orleans roots, Holland wandered the South with a gypsy-like loose collective of musos and artists before first coming to our attention with the new wave folk outfit the Be Good Tanyas. Her first album, Catalpa, although never originally intended for public release, became an underground success via internet sales. This first fully-fledged studio effort contains the same restrained arrangements – sometimes just a simple piano, or in the case of Mad Tom Of Bedlam, the less conventional voice and drums. While there is a seamless musical aesthetic to this album Goodbye California leaps from the speakers as an outstanding jaunty country driven romp in the vein of Me And Bobby McGee. Hail to the new folk jazz diva!
(4 “hats” (rating system) (City Hur 8 May)
JOLIE HOLLAND “Escondida”
As the World fawns and sweats over the likes of Britney, Holly, Christina and any number of other primping, surgically stacked, talent-deprived young starlets, a whole army of female performers is out there making music the way it should be made. Though a handful of truly talented female musicians have broken through the ranks in a big way, there are still many more deserving of acclaim. Jolie Holland is one of them. With a swooping, acrobatic voice, and a style that channels old-style bluegrass, folk and country but with a fresh approach, Holland is a true gem and her song “Old Fashioned Morphine” is an underground classic waiting to happen
Erin Free Film Ink June 2004
Jolie Holland recently released her debut studio release, Escondida. It follows the Texan singer-songwriter’s first effort, Catalpa, which was never intended for public ears but was given to a few friends and eventually pawned at shows. Word quickly spread and by the time it became available on her website orders came inform all over the shop including Europe and Japan! Paste Magazine describes Holland as, “…a songwriting talent of poetic grace…” and her voice as “…a remarkably supple instrument; and her phrasing and the way she sidles up to notes is nearly miraculous”. Escondida has continued the Jolie-praise fest – here’s a grab bag of critics drooling over the talented Jolie, who started writing songs on her toy piano aged six and once worked with the Be Good Tanyas: A magical hybrid. Holland will have two albums eying for space on December’s best of 2004” lists” (Sunday Times); “Elusive dreaminess… all hazy smoke and dusty cotton (4 out of 5)” (The Guardian); “Two great albums in one year? Gloriously immersed in her world of seductive Appalachian blues and wounded jazz” (The Mirror)…and on and on it goes. For a unique and beautiful spin on blues, folk, jazz, and pop, get into Escondida – out now on Anti through Shock. For more information check out www.jolieholland.com
(Forte 4 June 2004)
Show Some emotion
“Depression-ear blues are uplifting in the hands of Jolie Holland, writes Bernard Zuel.”
Jolie Holland writes and sings songs that sound as if a secret trove of 78s buried in the early 1930s has just been unearthed. With weeping trumpets, ukulele and musical saws (as well as more conventional guitars and draws from New Orleans jazz, southern gospel and the folk songs of tiny mountain towns.
These songs are delivered in a voice that has some of the airiness of a young Billie Holiday. But Holland is not a wizened veteran having one last gasp of fame, nor does she live in a Depression-era bubble. She’s not yet 30 and is encountering some very modern dilemmas.
“I’m going on a date tonight, it’s like our third date, and this morning he called me up.” Holland says. “I had told him I had a crush on him and we were arranging where we were going to meet tonight, and he said, “How can I put this, well, I’m an adult so I’ll just say it: I’m not feeling amorous. My feelings are kind of hurt but at the same time it’s a good thing for someone to be able to say, I guess.”
She sighs: “There are the problems that internet dating gets you into.”
You met him on the net? I asked, trying not to sound too incredulous.
“Yeah, it’s like you meet somebody too fast or whatever.”
How did you meet on the net?
“Oh, let’s not get into it,” she laughs with just an edge of hysteria.
Are you worried he may red about this?
“I don’t want anybody to read this.”
It’s not likely that Holland, who was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and now lives in San Francisco, would be too fazed by any repercussions of this revelation. When you spend a few years with a touring circus-like group, bumming your way around the US and Canada, being a street-performer, living out of skip bins, you get tough one way or the other. “Horrible”, she once said of that life. “Playing music on the street is really, really hard. I hurt my hands, I hurt my voice. So I won’t every do that again.”
“I’ve dealt with some really insane situations and kept my head,” Holland says. She didn’t always have that grip though, You get an idea of that on her first album, Catalpa, which was a collection of rough demos so rough there are cough and noises-of throughout) put out by a friend only to fall into the hands of soon-to-be fawning critics and fans.
Catalpa mused covers of almost forgotten blues songs, such as Hattie Hudson’s Black Hand Blues, with a song she had begun when briefly a member of Canadian folk/country group the Be Good Tanyas that incorporates lyrics from one of her heroes, the damaged ‘60s figure Syd Barrett plus eight of her own out-of-their time originals. One of those originals was I Wanna Die.
It could well be a character-based song but I Wanna Die feels too personal, too close to the truth that at one point Holland was at a dangerous place that could have ended in her hurting herself.
“Instead of doing that I wrote a song and changed my life,” she says. “Everything had to change. I was living on the road for a long time and it was completely wearing on me. My health was totally falling apart and I had a series of tragedies: my grandfather dies, I lost my hob, my savings were stolen. I had to make the decision to go away, start all over.
“It’s like they say with the Tarot cards, the death card means change.
“I Wanna Die is also a blues song and that’s what they say in the blues, that’s what they say in Cajun music just come out and say it not, ‘Oh, I feel depressed’,” she explains.
Is that what appeals to her about blues and the other roots music she draws on, that the emotions are closer to the surname than in refined pop music?
“Definitely. It’s a lot more punk rock, so straight [to the point].”
Musically, these near ancient – in popular culture terms – forms are not the sort of thing you’d expect a teenage to be drawn to, which is what happened to Holland.
She had begun playing piano at six (the first song she wrote Tiny Idyll, can he found on her new album, Escondida, played on a child’s toy piano) and later moved to fiddle and guitar. She had family connections with both Louisiana and East Texas but her home environment was not especially musical. So, how and why this music?
“It’s just how I say things. It’s just me, what I do. I really feel blues music, I really feel music from the south in a way other people don’t. I can understand what a blues player is saying and a lot of people can’t. My Canadian friends can’t understand what Blind Willie Johnson is singing but for me I can hear it because it’s the same voice as my grandparents; generation.”
(SMH 12-13 June 2004)
Jolie Holland “Escondida” 4 Stars
Last year, many critics raved about Jolie Holland’s Catalpa, a collection of stark, singular demos (it cost $1500 to make). Now comes the “legitimate” solo debut by this young Texan singer-songwriter – previously known for her association with Canadian folk trio the Be Good Tanyas. Less confronting and more polished than its predecessor, Escondida shows great empathy for traditional American music in all its diversity from earthy folk to blues and jazz. Holland backs up her ripe, Texas-accented vocals on fiddle, guitars, piano and ukulele, aided by jazz drummer Dave Mihaly, guitarist Brian Miller and bassist Keith Casey, with trumpeter Ara Anderson guesting on tracks including the gently romantic Sasha. On Black Stars, another low-key gem with tremulous guitar and muted cymbals, Holland’s vocal has the rarefied quality of a flugelhorn. Old Fashion Morphine evokes the ‘20s – an era of great female blues singers – yet it is also a 21st century original. Impressive
Mike Daly (Age Green Guide)