At her recent Great Hall show, Jolie Holland seemed past ready to burst out of her singer/songwriter role and into full-on jam band mode. Problem was, her vocals - and songs - tended to retreat behind the cloud of guitars.
Not so on her sixth record. Wine Dark Sea is a brilliantly track-listed album, stronger as a whole than broken into parts. On tape, Holland got the spirit of improvisation and collaborative energy of her band (three lead guitarists, two drummers, bass, horns, her violin and Douglas Jenkins's cello) without sacrificing her pipes. In fact, they are clearer and more expressive than ever.
Witness the transition from near-out-of-control VU fuzz (Dark Days) to an easy-stroll-paced blues tune (Route 30), to the impressionistic poetry of I Thought It Was The Moon. Then there's The Love You Save - a great soul cover, written by Joe Tex.
Top track: Route 30