Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You

Mike McGonigal

By Mike McGonigal

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Springtime Can Kill You

Jolie Holland
The sweet, salacious sound of spring.

"Ants are crawling in my pants," sings Jolie Holland, "as if to say they know where the honey is." Holland's third album Springtime Can Kill You is often that salacious, even as her predominantly first-person tunes present a worldview that's world-weary but never burnt. It's here that the Texas-reared, sultry-voiced San Franciscan begins to reveal the extent of her talents, which easily transcend the folk/country trappings of her delightful first two albums. On the predecessor Escondida, Holland flitted from genre to genre with ease, but Springtime is a full-on recombinant exercise that never sounds forced. The jazzy songs have delicate country and folk tinges while the atmospheric rock numbers have gospel embellishments. Best of all, Holland demonstrates more control than ever over her voice; it floats and then dive-bombs like a hummingbird, and may bring to mind Memphis Minnie, Karen Dalton, Mirah and Billie Holiday, depending on the song. Springtime bills itself as a "song cycle," which it manages despite a quarter of the songs being covers — one traditional tune ("Adieu, False Heart"), plus numbers by contemporary poet-songwriter C.R. Avery ("Crazy Dreams") and country music pioneer Riley Puckett ("You're Not Satisfied"). But the real through-line of Springtime is the warmth that pervades the music; it's no surprise that Holland and her group recorded live to tape for much of the album, in front of an audience of friends.