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Jolie Holland suffers opening night mishaps

Club Passim, Cambridge, MA, July 5, 2011

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
Tours tend to take awhile to gel and get into gear. At least that's what Jolie Holland should be thinking today after the first night of her month-long tour. She sold out the first gig, a great way to start, but when it came to the music of the late night outing, well, there were problems.

Perhaps 30 seconds into the first song, Holland was not where she wanted to be and had to restart the song. Later, she stopped another song because the drummer was moving too fast for her vocals, and she said she didn't want to, in effect, to rush the lyrics to catch up. And then there was at least one song where she couldn't remember the words and a Michael Hurley song wherein the same problem happened.

Holland also could not figure out what to play during her encore, even though she was solo and not needing her band to know any particular song. She told the crowd of about 40 people that she was unsure why she continued to stay on stage when she wasn't sure what the wanted to do. Maybe chalk it up to pride and being a professional, but then be one.

A few members of the opening act's band (Jeffrey Munger on lead guitar and Ford Tennis on drums) from Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside) played with Holland and did not sound anything near an oiled machine that was comfortable with each other. Holland said afterwards that they had not had a chance to practice as much as she would have liked, which would have been nice before launching a tour.

The night was certainly not all doom and gloom for Holland or the crowd. She had a good chunk of material that she caressed without rushing, including from her new disc, "Pint of Blood," which dropped last week. Remember from "Pint" sounded particularly good. Holland used to be considered more of a rootsy/somewhat countryish artist. that's part of her sound along with a bit of a bluesy voice.

Holland performed far better vocally when she let loose a bit instead of toning it down because when she did that, she tended to slide her word phrasings and sing with more of a drawl. That became more apparent in the middle of the set, which tended to sound a bit the same. Singing stronger and without the drawl would have worked far better for Holland as she did on her take of Jimmie Dale Gilmore's Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown.

But unfortunately there were too many negatives to overcome. For someone with Holland's experience, it would be hard to label these problems as anything but inexcusable. About the only pass she should get was that this was the opening night with a brand new band.

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside acquitted themselves in their Boston debut. Ford, an Asheville, N.C. native, who now lives in Portland, Ore., is touring behind her full-length debut on Partisan Records. The sound is a mix of country, roots, blues, jazz and rock. Bottom line, of course, is that Ford can't be pigeon-holed so easily.

Ford's got a likable voice with a slew of musical twists and turns thrown in to keep it interesting. Her backing trio of Munger on lead guitar, Tyler Tornfelt on upright bass and Tennis on drums filled the songs. Ford was a bit on the green side when it came to making comments - friendly, but not particularly compelling when she talked.

But Ford should concentrate on the music because she has the chops.