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Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
Album: Wildflower Blues
Label: Cinquefoil
Tracks: 10

Jolie and Samantha were involved in founding Canadian alt-country outfit The Be Good Tanyas just before the millennium, and although the band name was to last through until 2007 (with a consistent trio membership of Samantha, Frazey Ford and Trish Klein), Jolie didn’t figure much after their debut album Blue Rose. Even so, there was always a strong chemistry between the two ladies, a common musical sensibility, so it comes a surprise to learn that the recently-released album Wildflower Blues is actually their debut release as a duo partnership, effectively something of musical reunion, for the completion of which they recruited Stevie Weinstein-Foner (guitar), Jared Samuel, (piano, bass, guitar), and Justin Veloso (drums) to flesh out their duo sound just a touch.

Wildflower Blues is a soulful, assured and laid-back collection with a great sense of atmosphere. It delivers three covers and seven originals; of the latter, two (the defiant The Last and playful closing instrumental Gooseberry Rag) were written by Jolie on her own, one (Biding My Time) is a co-write with Felix Hatfield, and the remainder being joint compositions with Samantha. The prevailing groove is a special brand of soul music that embraces and weaves together, almost seamlessly (and often in the space of one song), twang-laden country, rootsy folk, gospel and a wider song-based Americana. There’s an intimate, deliciously lazy feel to proceedings, with an almost retro aura at times, particularly on cuts like Biding My Time (which, with its dream-like, swampy ambience, is one of two tracks to feature Jolie’s whistling), the leisurely Make It Up To Me and the drifting, mesmerising title song. Penultimate track Johnny Said To May makes capital out of an a cappella introduction before the onset of gorgeous vocal harmonies over the gently devotional, almost muted backdrop, and Little Black Bear also employs a tender, burnished electric guitar texturing.

Of the three covers, Jocko’s Lament by Michael Hurley makes the biggest impression with its weathered crooning harmonies and whistled solo; there’s a reimagination of a less-heralded Dylan number, Minstrel Boy (from Self Portrait) which actually benefits from some extra lyrics by Jolie, while it was no wonder that Townes Van Zandt’s You Are Not Needed Now was chosen as the album’s lead single. One other special feature of the album is its really attractive artwork, which enhances that opulent, slightly drugged feel drawn out of the sound production.

I really do hope that Wildflower Blues ain’t a one-off flash-in-the-pan reunion; for on the evidence of this album, I’ll be counting the days till Jolie and Samantha can get together again to write and make music.

David Kidman