At the ripe age of 73, this year’s musical underdog, Lonnie Holley has delivered one of the year's most powerful records that is as spiritual as it is moving.
After years of working as an extremely successful sculptor, visual artist and writer, Lonnie Holley began his foray into experimental and improvisational soul in 2006 and eventually gained the attention of Justin Vernon of Jagjaguwar. The result of nearly 20 years of honing his craft across the arts is this absolute gem.
‘Oh Me Oh My’ somehow feels like a lifetime's worth of experiences pushed into one record. The life and times of Lonnie Holley are all on display here from the highest points of profound love and connection to the lows of abuse. The record can’t be placed into a box with it’s cosmic, spacious and lush improvisations, sounds and pure feeling. It can be groove-laced and funk-like (‘Earth Will Be There’) or channelling the blues in the title track. Regardless of the genre or subject matter, there’s always a momentum present pulling the record towards a grounded centre of spiritual beauty.
It’s got the star power of a major label release with features from Bon Iver, Sharon Van Etten, Moor Mother and Michael Stipe. These are serious heavyweight creatives with significant grounding, and yet they all pull their weight and are entwined into the ethereal soundscapes that Holley conjures that at one point terrify (‘Mount Meigs’) or transcend (‘None Of Us Have But a Little While’). It’s beautifully human as heard through the records of stories and memories of moments in a life well lived, as sung by his worn-scarred voice. These imperfections make the record all the more compelling and make for one of our most beloved albums of 2023.
These are real songs of innocence and experience as Holley creates one of the most beautiful conceptual dynamics we’ve heard all year.
Essential listening for all.
‘Oh Me Oh My’ is available in the Store now.
Lonnie Holley will be touring the East Coast in late September, including the new curated ‘Volumes’ festival for the Art Gallery of NSW alongside Solange. Dates are available through Bandsintown.