“On Holder’s new (and appropriately titled) Uncomfortable Truths, the Austin songwriter digs deep into her own feminism with clear-eyed honesty. Some tunes are as expansive as Holder’s native Texas, while others are as close and claustrophobic as a troubled relationship. Throughout, Holder’s confessions give her strength and anchor the LP.” - No Depression
"Much of the album reveals raw footage of real life. Holder manages to somehow wrap up the sometimes painful narratives with a positive bow. Not always neatly wrapped, but the message of a change of mindset prevails."
- American Songwriter
"Ali Holder, Uncomfortable Truths: Fourth LP serves a breakthrough with brilliant, bruising confessionals and defiant, compassionate anthems, cutting the space between Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann." - Austin Chronicle
"Longtime local music scene fixture Holder will celebrate her fourth release since 2013. 'Uncomfortable Truths' isn’t necessarily a concept album, but it’s held together by four tracks collectively titled “speak” that seek to give a voice to those who too often go unheard. Musically holder draws from both traditional singer-songwriter forms and more modern indie influences." - Austin American Statesman
Holder’s sound is purely her own. Slow and beautiful, the live song possesses a darker, serious tone, pairing perfectly with her lyrics of introspection, dreams, and fate. – KUTX
Ranking among Austin’s brightest songwriters. – Austin Monthly
Speak Two is about the privilege of being born into a middle class family. Having the foundation and support to go to college and take risks. Anyone could end up unhoused at some point in their lives. There’s so much judgment about the unhoused. The truth is that some of them have had hard luck their whole lives with no support to rely on. Some have untreated mental illness and addiction issues. It goes back to systemic racism and poverty. The system we live in has not set people up to succeed. Most don’t have access healthcare or mental healthcare. I could go on and on about the injustice of poverty. Housing, food, education, mental and physical health care should be a right. It’s the responsibility of the privileged to share their resources and time to make other’s lives more livable.
"It’s heady material, but rather than coming off preachy, Holder finds a place of introspection and honesty as the song reaches its stirring climax." - Caleb Campbell, Under the Radar
Speak One is about the privilege of being a white bodied person in a systemically white culture. Fixing this system involves white people recognizing their privilege. People who have the privilege of whiteness must use their voice and take action on every level of the system. From our neighborhoods to our legislation. George Floyd may have broken the dam, but this is a life threatening country for people of color. It has been that way since it was built upon the backs of slaves hundreds of years ago. It is our duty to change this cultural mindset and structure.
"The video explodes with the anxiety and tension of the song, a roaring rock backing overlaid with Holder’s weary vocals in a balance of hope and fury and determination." - Doug Freeman, Austin Chronicle
We each have unique fibers that weave, twist and turn to make up the person we are. Some can be a little ragged, a little worn, a little less than what we expected they would be -- the parts of our brains and bodies that require a little extra care. Uncomfortable Truths, out today, finds singer-songwriter Ali Holder facing these pieces of her own story head-on.
Throughout the 12-song collection, Holder unapologetically “embraces her own contradictions, explores the thorniness of marriage, and speaks explicitly on different forms of privilege,” No Depression notes. The album is confessional in nature, seeking to convey an ultimately positive outlook on surroundings, while still acknowledging difficult circumstances.
Two songs are from the perspective of La Loba, a Pueblo myth known for collecting bones of those in danger of being lost to the world, as well as her ability to resurrect the wild spirit of life. “Bruja” finds La Loba bringing 300 women who died at the hands of the Mexican cartels back to life to march on the men who destroyed them. Atwood Magazine premiered the track, saying it’s “a dazzling show of force” as “Holder’s impassioned singing speaks for those who lost their lives, who may no longer use their own voices to fight an ongoing, terrible, and largely unseen battle of gender, power, and place in society.” The last song on the album, “Singing Over Bones” finds Holder unapologetically claiming the wild within.
Relationships and the challenges that come with them are the focus of several tracks; “California,” a mid-tempo track replete with an atmospheric percussion and Holder’s arresting alto on full display, parallels the vast landscape with ups and downs, hot and cold of a romantic relationship.
“Take Me As I Am,” about marriage, examines therapy as a beneficial tool for both individuals and relationships, offering a way to accept someone as they are. On “Bad Wife,” AudioFemme notes Holder “gets honest about marriage,” as she ponders identity in a relationship. “Nova” uses space metaphors in terms of marriage, finding ways to cut through the darkness. “Lightning Rods” ponders the idea of creativity as the inherent electricity we each have.
“Reborn” discusses chronic pain and shifting perspective. American Songwriter says, like much of what’s discussed on the album, it’s “not always neatly wrapped, but the message of a change of mindset prevails.”
“You can choose to focus on the negative or the positive," Holder says. "I am making a choice for the positive. All this in hopes that someone else can hear it and feel less alone about their own pain.”
Although Holder was raised on outlaw country in Wichita Falls, Texas, she is influenced by a broad swathe of styles including country, jazz, blues, folk and indie. “I use slashes a lot,” Holder notes. “Folk/country/blues/Americana/jazz. I don’t think I have to be any one thing.” She began writing, singing and playing guitar in junior high, and fell in love with songwriters early on- “Janis Joplin and the women of Lilith Fair had a big impact on me growing up”.
Over time, Holder discovered Texas songwriters such as Susan Gibson and Walt Wilkins, along with Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams and Tom Waits. In college, she absorbed Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, Jenny Lewis and Neko Case. After completing her undergraduate degree in art education at the University of Texas at Arlington, Holder relocated to Austin in search of a larger audience. Once settled, Holder fronted two bands: the folk-leaning Ali Holder & the Broken Hearted, and R&B band Ali Holder & the Raindoggs.
In recent times, Holder has expanded her musical palate to include artists such as Brandi Carlile, Susan Tedeschi, Possessed by Paul James and Lera Lynn. These influences can occasionally be heard in the songs, but it’s her own sound — a sure voice that leans toward alto but effortlessly reaches far higher, coupled with well-targeted musical sensibilities and intelligent lyrics — that draws the listener in.
Whether her inspirations come from haunting historic sites, communing with cattle or reading Stephen King, Ali Holder clearly has creative blood coursing through her veins. Let her spill some into your ears.