Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The New Year, which began last night with some unremarkable glasses of wine, and began in earnest this morning with the first homemade waffles of 2012, was filled with little real substance. It was spent dillying and dallying around, fighting naps, giving in to naps, half-watching football, wishing there was something more than old and skunky beer in the house, a short run to get the year off to a decent start and some movies. Two that were partially watched were "The Green Mile" and "Uncle Buck," so they're rolling around in the mind as I'm sitting here listening to and thinking about Jolie Holland.
She's been to the Horseshack three times now and two of those times, she's seemed ill and partially unstable. Not in a scary way, but in a way that made everything a little tense and uncertain. She seemed less than happy. It's likely that that was all that it was. She was less than happy. On the day that she recorded this session, a few months ago, she wasn't that way at all. She was almost cheery and it was pleasant to see her newfound mood. You couldn't help but think though that the unhappiness and a turn in temperature were all that far out of the picture, as if they could resurface in a flash. It's easy to be concerned about such things because her songs are filled with the wreckage of people, of hearts and of minds. They are the chronicles of her and others who aren't going to get by easily. They are going to total themselves over and over and they're going to gawk at the accidents that they pass through, near or become involved with along the way. "Pint of Blood," Holland's latest record follows that same line of disturbingly unrelenting nights of sorrow and disappointment.
There are also songs such as "Honey Girl," where there's a thought of taking a night by surprise, walking around the hill and shocking the hell out of the coming moon and everything that it might have to suggest. It's a thought that there might be a way to escape the substantial pain and suffering that just don't seem to abate. So many of the people that Holland writes into song are those who are self-mutilators. They are people who find their reasons for looking at everything the way that they do, in dim light and with a grim future. They kill themselves with their love. They make it hurt and the hurt isn't usually the kind that feels good. It hits and it dwells.
Holland sings on "Honey Girl," "The valley of tears that I must cross/Just to keep the blaze from catching up with me/Just to keep from getting the blues." She makes the valley of tears feel as if it's something that she has to cross daily on her commute to and from wherever she's staying that night. The flames are licking at her heals, charring her soles and the blues are a silent killer and they've never lost her scent. They trail her and track her down no matter what she does. The blaze might be stopped by the trail of tears, but the blues will only be encouraged by it. Holland will never be a silly-heart. She'll never be able to shake off her plight of being someone who is able to speak to the sadness that she strangely enough seeks to dine with and perhaps get to the bottom of.