Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton: Wildflower Blues

Music Reviews Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton: Wildflower Blues

Wildflower Blues represents a reunion of sorts — that of Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton, founding members of The Be Good Tanyas, a quartet whose Americana was often at odds with any wider success. That never seemed to deter them though; despite a fondness for supple back country harmonies and rustic accoutrements, they did manage to get some high profile placements, among them, on The L Word, Weeds and the feature film Because of Winn-Dixie.

Still, the Tanyas’ music generally catered to specialized tastes, and with various members coming and going over the years, the band eventually went on hiatus following the release of their fourth album. Although she left the band after only one release, Holland’s career proved to be the most prolific of all, thanks to a sound that manages to fuse vintage influences with her more visceral instincts.

Whether it was simply timing or a general whiff of nostalgia that encouraged Holland and Parton to pick up the phone and opt to reunite is really of little consequence. Either way, it was fortuitous. Six solo albums on, Holland’s career was in need of a jolt, and Parton, who was recovering from not one, but two, serious auto accidents, apparently needed the impetus to get her career rebooted.

Happily then, the two seem to have had no problem picking up where they left off, and the fact that this pairing comes across as assured and unhurried provides a testament to their chemistry, as well as their devotion to a common cause.

With the exception of “Gooseberry Rag,” the album’s final entry and a cheery piano strut, the songs come across as low-lit, sultry shuffles; easy and ambling, with the faint lilt of a lullaby and Southern charm. Holland and Parton coauthored the majority of the songs, tossing in occasional cover—a take on Townes Van Zandt’s “You Are Not Needed Now” and Bob Dylan’s “Minstrel Boy”—without losing the album’s overall consistency. Even when their burnished harmonies rise above a whisper, the tenuous blend of soul, nocturnal jazz and unassuming folk finesse keeps the music from overstepping any bounds. Wildflower Blues doesn’t carry the gravitas of a formidable reunion, nor does it suggest some grand statement as to future intents. The beguiling comforts it does offer within are more than enough.

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