Ali Holder Confronts Privilege & Violence in Video Series // Premiere of part one, “Speak 1,” threads thematic four-pack
"Ali Holder’s Uncomfortable Truths delivered a breakthrough for the local singer-songwriter last spring – one overshadowed by a pandemic. To celebrate the album’s first birthday, she’s releasing a video series of its four “Speak” interludes, which thematically thread the hard confessional truths she confronts throughout the LP.
“This is one of four vignettes about privilege,” Holder explains. “This one is about violence. As a white person, I don’t know violence the way members of BIPOC communities do. Whether it be from the cops or from the culture in general.
“This privilege means I have the responsibility to speak up and take action against BIPOC violence.
“Releasing Uncomfortable Truths in the pandemic was quite the blow, to be honest,” admits the songwriter. “I spent a year fundraising and half a year prepping with press, radio, and setting up shows – none of which I got to play.”
“However, as a woman, I have less privilege when it comes to violence – when it comes to feeling safe in my own body or even walking on a street alone. As someone who is cisgender, I also deal with a significantly lessened threat of violence.
“There are intersections and subtleties when it comes to privilege. Because I live in a safe neighborhood in a relatively safe city, and because I present as a cis-gendered woman, it’s also my responsibility to advocate for the safety of women of all races and genders.”
Animated by fellow Austin troubadour Seela, 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. The clip launches something of a re-release for the album, which includes Holder’s livestream from Waterloo Records this Saturday.
“Releasing Uncomfortable Truths in the pandemic was quite the blow, to be honest,” admits the songwriter. “I spent a year fundraising and half a year prepping with press, radio, and setting up shows – none of which I got to play. I spent the pandemic really relearning what my identity was without being a working musician. It was quite a reckoning.
“This past year allowed me to pull a few plugs I wouldn't have pulled myself when it comes to playing music,” she continues. “It has allowed me to restructure in a way that is healthier for my mind and body. It will allow me to be a little more strategic and intentional when it comes to my music career moving forward. For that, I am very thankful.”
- The Austin Chronicle
When an artist sounds like where you come from, it can be an immediate, visceral kind of connection, and such is the connection I’ve found with Ali Holder’s track, “Reborn.” The pillowy organ, slow rhythm guitar, and ever-so-slight drawl on this track had already transported my heart to my hometown of Austin, TX before my mind had time to recognize the nostalgia. Growing up in Austin, I always assumed that no matter where you went in the world, you’d find singer-songwriters on every street and in every restaurant, every day of the week. I thought it was a basic part of shared human experience, like fending off grackles or getting unlimited free refills of unsweet iced tea. And from the ubiquitous, strumming masses of my youth, I have come to recognize there is absolutely an “Austin sound.” To me, it's a sound that I will never be able to shake as long as I live; to many, it’s inextricably linked to the strong, warm breezes of July evenings; and if you want to know what it can mean to you, well—I’d start here with Ali Holder.
- The Wild Honey Pie
Ali Holder // Uncomfortable Truths
The title alone provides intrigue as Texas singer-songwriter Ali Holder doesn’t just confess but instead urges us to stand tall, defiantly in the face of stereotypes while acknowledging difficult circumstances. Ultimately, rather than dwelling on the negative, she pushes toward the optimistic higher road, chronicling some of the pain on her journey. She has plenty of grit and refuses to apologize, best exemplified in two songs which use La Loba, a Pueblo myth about a desert wolfwoman, to resurrect women who died at the hands of the Mexican cartel. La Loba represents independence, power, and one who rights wrongs.
The first is “Bruja,” where Holder’s power and confidence are on full display. After seeing an art installation memorializing 300 women missing at the hands of cartels, as Holder told Atwood Magazine, she imagined La Loba raising these women as a vengeful army of the dead- “Call out/I call out/to raise the bones from the earth….Call out/I call out/to march on the men who destroyed you,” she sings over at atmospheric bed of folk-rock. She ends the album with “Singing Over Bones,” reprising La Loba again in a dirge-like approach with lyrics such as – “Scavenging for souls/and stories untold/pieces laid bare/for the resurrection…” to the chorus “I will not apologize/for the wild within me.”
Yes, this, like the title suggests is heavy, provocative stuff. Throughout the dozen songs Holder who uses folk, and jazz-folk, oft ethereal backdrops to frame her lyrics and pure, alto voice, sings about things that most folks don’t want to talk about. She discourses on mental illness, chronic pain, healthy boundaries, and relationship challenges. She touches on the drawbacks of privilege, poverty, woman’s rights, and both physical and verbal violence. Her stance is evident from the outset, insisting she doesn’t need a man on “Take Me As I Am,” a song about marital therapy as a tool for accepting someone for who they are. She stays on the relationship theme in “Bad Wife,” addressing frustration. “Nova” also deals with marriage, trying to find ways cut through the dark.
Gleaning the titles, you’ll notice that four of them use “Speak,” all of which address privilege as her means of giving a voice to the voiceless. The first addresses violence, the second economic security and having a safety net, the third mental and physical health effects on relationships, and finally a discussion of self-created boundaries that women often use in a man’s world.
In one of her stronger tracks, “California,” with attendant spacey musical backdrop, she draws parallels between the peaks and valleys of the landscape to the ebb and flow of relationships. “Lightning Rods” purports that creativity is inherent electricity that we all have. “Reborn,” perhaps the most upbeat song, is another clear standout. The swirling B3 organ underscores resilience as she sings, almost as if emerging from a sick bed, “Well I never believed I was good enough/like I deserved every bad thing I got…Yeah living with pain will make you tough/I’m finally open to healing/I’m open to love.”
Holder talks about it this way, “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.” No, this is not for the faint of heart, but Holder’s words can be a source of comfort and encouragement to keep fighting the good fight. Don’t cave, don’t apologize, and stand tall.
- Making a Scene
Ali Holder is Unapologetic in 'Uncomfortable Truths' // Ali Holder concludes her new record with a refusal to apologize.
“I’ve been pulling flesh / from the bones of your debt / nothing left / but smooth and hollowness,” Holder sings on closing track “Singing Over Bones.” “Scavenging for souls / and stories untold / pieces laid bare / for the resurrection.” Chains rattle, vocal harmonies haunt, and lightly effected electric guitars tease the edges of a menacing dirge as Holder’s voice rises for the defiant chorus: “I will not apologize / for the wild within me.”
It’s one of two songs on this album that engage La Loba, a desert wolf-woman out of Pueblo lore that probably seems pretty feral from a patriarchal perspective. Yet La Loba makes a lot of sense to Holder. It represents feminine patience, independence, and righteous ferocity. It rattles cages. It won’t be chained. It claims arcane vengeance for women to whom the patriarchy was fatal.
And it doesn’t apologize.
On Holder’s new (and appropriately titled) Uncomfortable Truths, the Austin songwriter digs deep into her own feminism with clear-eyed honesty. She embraces her own contradictions, explores the thorniness of marriage, and speaks explicitly on different forms of privilege. Stylistically, Uncomfortable Truths inhabits a twilit, jazz-inflected Americana that borrows liberally from other schools (one especially excellent fusion is the noise-rock chaos at the end of “Speak One”). 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.
“Take me as I am / a body with limitations,” she sings over gothic swagger on opening track “Take Me As I Am.” Thing is, Holder isn’t asking. She addresses fragile masculinity and the toxic structures it can create within a relationship, but doesn’t cede control. After all, and as she sings, she doesn’t need a man.
“Take Me As I Am” is paired with (and immediately followed by) the despondent “Bad Wife.” “I’ve never been tidy / I’ve never been clean / I can’t manage to wash the dishes / or do the laundry,” Holder sings over lounge-y swing and brooding baritone guitar. “I’m just a bad wife / it’s always about me.” Flute and string flourishes punctuate the darkness, swirling around Holder as she declares “I’ve lost my identity.”
If the protagonist of “Bad Wife” is tense and frustrated, “Bruja” surges with power and confidence. After seeing an art installation memorializing 300 women missing at the hands of Mexican cartels, as Holder told Atwood Magazine, she imagined La Loba raising these women as a vengeful army of the dead. “Call out / I call out / to raise the bones from the earth,” Holder cries over insistent, Southwestern-tinged folk-rock. “Call out / I call out / to march on the men who destroyed you.”
In “Reborn,” Holder speaks of a different kind of resurrection — an everyday, everywoman sort of resilience. The upbeat number almost jangles — almost — and is about as close to poppy as the restrained Holder comes on Uncomfortable Truths. “Well I never believed I was good enough / like I deserved every bad thing I got,” Holder sings. “Yeah, living with pain will make you tough / I’m finally open to healing / I’m open to love.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s compromising who she is.
And that doesn’t mean she’ll apologize.
- No Depression
REVIEW: Ali Holder’s “Uncomfortable Truths” Is Introspection And The Burdens Others Carry
We all want that feeling of “connecting” with our favorite musician. There’s a gratifying rush (and, often, a simultaneous twinge of sadness) when a lyric hits us in a delicate spot. Usually, it’s because the artist has drawn from their own experiences to write those words, and it happens to dovetail to a degree to something you or I might have also experienced. Texan Ali Holder has taken that a step further, taking on the burdens of others and making them her own. On her latest release, Uncomfortable Truths, the singer-songwriter both acknowledges her privileged position and boldly vows to use it to help others.
Before wrestling with the fates of others, Holder does a little bit of introspection. The first two tracks on Uncomfortable Truths look at two sides of marriage. “Take Me As I Am,” wages a (mostly internal) battle for independence – “In the chain of evolution/Not needing a man/It’s a gift handed down.” The tune is dark, offset by plinking from a toy piano (the album is sprinkled with unusual instrumentation). “Bad Wife” finds the singer castigating herself for considering her options – “I live in a duality/I’m in my head entertaining/Every other possibility.” Her inner voice, which is surely informed by society’s expectations, is criticizing her inability to be the “perfect” wife, when the only “sin” she’s really committing is simply being a confused human being.
After looking at herself, Holder turns much of the rest of the album outward. “Speak 1” is the first of four short musical vignettes advocating for others who can’t speak – in this case, she takes up for victims of domestic and racial violence: “I dunno what it feels like/To be afraid for my life/Just for being who I am.” Holder, though, promises to give a voice to that fear – “I will lift your voice up as if it were mine.” The tune has a heavy indie vibe and ends in a swirling, Smashing Pumpkins-ish coda (Holder plays much of the guitar on the album). “Speak”s 2, 3 and 4 address the lack of a social safety net, physical and mental health, and personal boundaries. Each features a different musical approach but contains the same guarantee: “I can’t speak for you/But I can speak to/Using my privilege.”
The other conceit on Uncomfortable Truths is the concept of La Loba, a Pueblo myth who collects bones and brings spirits back from the underworld. In “Bruja” (which translates roughly to “witch”), Holder sings of 300 women disappeared via the Mexican Cartel. With music that evokes a spare desert landscape, Holder again straps this burden to her back – “I was a Bruja in my last life” – and the feeling here is definitely one of revenge: “I call out/To raise the bones from the Earth…To march on the men who destroyed you.” And the album wraps with “Singing Over Bones,” a very personal appeal to all women to gather their own strength. As the music crescendos, then drops to nothing, she declares, “I will not apologize/For the wild within me.” Defiant to the end.
Uncomfortable Truths was produced by Ali Holder, Britton Beisenherz, Gregg White and Jeremy Menking. All songs were written by Holder. Additional musicians include Beisenherz (percussion, samples, string arrangement), Dees Stribling (drums, percussion), White (acoustic and electric guitars, keys, strings and samples), Menking (bass, electric guitar, lap steel) and Stephanie Macias Gibson (harmony vocals).
- Americana Highways
Ali Holder Premieres Latest Single, “Reborn”
Today, singer-songwriter Ali Holder premiered her latest single, “Reborn” on American Songwriter. The song comes ahead of her third album, Uncomfortable Truths, set for release on April 10. “Reborn” discusses chronic pain from a thoughtful perspective. Having suffered migraines for twenty years and vulvodynia for eight, Holder lays stigma aside with her latest track.
“I knew I wanted to write about chronic pain, I just wasn’t sure how to make it clever,” Holder explained, “so, I figured I would lay it out word for word instead. At a certain point, you start to lose hope that your life will ever change; you become used to living a smaller version of your life. Just like having control over the way I thought, I had control over this song. I wanted to give myself a rebirth. I wanted everyone else living with chronic pain to know that you can be reborn, even if just in spirit.”
“Reborn” is the third single off of her upcoming album. Influenced by personal struggles, the twelve-song collection explores mental illness, chronic pain, healthy boundaries, and relationship challenges. Intertwined is a theme of privilege, discussing physical and psychological violence, poverty, and women’s rights. As the title suggests, Holder set out to bury the idea that pain is not to be shared.
This single comes on the heels of “Bad Wife,” released just a few weeks after the first, “Bruja.” “Bad Wife” challenges marriage difficulties as a taboo topic. Hodler married her husband after only six months together; a visa expiration led the two to take a chance on love. The reality of the affiliated life adjustments diminished some of the anticipated romance. Her lyrics tell the lesser shared, but widely experienced story of newlywed life.
“I wanted to convey that marriage can be very tough and that it’s okay to talk about it,” explained Holder. “I don’t know why we don’t talk about these things. There is no shame in struggling. We are so much better off to share our struggles with others, so they know they’re not alone, so we know we’re not alone.”
“Bruja” takes on the voice of La Loba. La Loba, or, “The Wolf Woman”, is a Pueblo mythology character who is known for collecting bones, as well as her ability to resurrect the wild spirit of life from the underworld. Her initial interest developed from her time spent in West Texas, where she learned about this blended heritage.
“I saw an art installation where plaster cast hearts were hanging from the ceiling to represent women who had gone missing via the Mexican Cartel. I always wanted to avenge them, so I had La Loba raise the bones of the 300 dead women to march as an army on the men who destroyed them.”
Like much of the album, “Reborn” 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.
“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.”
Listen to Ali Holder’s latest single “Reborn” below. Look out for the release of her third studio album, Uncomfortable Truths, on April 10th.
- American Songwriter
Ali Holder Gets Honest About Marriage in “Bad Wife”
Austin-based folk singer-songwriter Ali Holder has never been one to shy away from taboo topics, but they take front and center in her third full-length album, Uncomfortable Truths. The first single off the album, “Bruja,” adapts the Pueblo myth of La Loba (the Wolf Woman) to create her own story of avenging the women murdered by the Mexican Cartel.
The second, “Bad Wife,” describes feelings of inadequacy as a spouse: “I’m just a bad wife / always causing a fight / I’m just a bad wife / I don’t sleep well at night / I’ve never been tidy, never been clean / I can’t manage to wash the dishes or do the laundry.” Singer-songwriter Grant Peeples covered it for his album, Bad Wife, a collection of covers of songs by female artists.
After the Uncomfortable Truths release on April 10, Holder plans to go on tour and spend some time as artist-in-residence at the Roots HQ in Fayetteville, AR. We talked to her about the inspiration behind her new single and album.
AF: Tell me about what inspired “Bad Wife” and what message you’re conveying with the song.
AH: My husband and I married after six months of knowing each other. His visa was up, and we were faced with having to get married or break up, essentially. So, we decided to take a risk for love. As much as we were in love, we were still practically strangers. It was a very intense shift for me to go from a single person to a married person. I felt like I had lost my identity. Your thoughts, actions, motivations, everything changes.
I believe our best partners bring things out in us that allow us to heal. There were a lot of growing pains and healing going on during that time. I wanted to convey that marriage can be very tough and that it’s okay to talk about it. I don’t know why we don’t talk about these things. There is no shame in struggling. We are so much better off to share our struggles with others so they know they’re not alone, so we know we’re not alone.
AF: What was it like for Grant Peeples to cover it? What additional meaning do you think it gave the song to have a male artist cover it?
AH: Grant is a friend and such a good feminist. It made me really happy to hear he was going to cover it. I think perhaps when a man hears that song coming from another man, they are less threatened by it. It’s less about them being attacked or feeling guilty and more about the storytelling. Grant is a particular male artist. I am not sure many men could have pulled it off. Having such a feminist man sing it feels like a flag being raised for all women saying, “I understand you, I am rooting for you.”
AF: What other topics are addressed on the album?
AH: This album explores all of my uncomfortable truths: chronic pain, mental illness, privilege. It also explores my uncomfortable truths and others’ on a larger scale, like sexual assault, not apologizing for being who we are, revenge… all the things we as women are not supposed to feel or talk about.
AF: Why did you decide to bring the myth of La Loba into the album? What does this character mean to you?
AH: I was reading Women Who Run with the Wolves, which is where I first learned of La Loba. I love that she was half-wolf (wild) and half-human. I loved that she created new wolf women from the bones of the women that came before them. That wildness in us is something we are so lucky to have, no matter what we’ve been told. She allowed me to forgive myself, accept myself, love myself for exactly who I was. She allowed me to cherish the wild in myself and the wild in other women. She taught me how powerful that can become when you surround yourself with and celebrate other wild women.
AF: “Bruja” calls attention to women who died at the hands of the Mexican cartel. How did this topic become of interest to you?
AH: I lived out in West Texas for a time. I saw an art installation that had 300 plaster cast hearts to represent 300 women who had gone missing via the cartel. That always stuck with me, haunted me. I go out to that same area once a year to write, and I finally found the revenge I was seeking for them through the La Loba character.
AF: Who were your biggest influences on this album?
AH: Honestly, my own struggles. At one point, I just became overwhelmed. Writing and singing about them became my catharsis. Music was getting to feel icky for me. Always promoting myself, always asking for money… I knew that I needed it to change somehow. I am about to quote Oprah — don’t judge me! — but I heard her say, “You know you’re on your path when it involves helping others.” That’s when the lightbulb went off and I thought, “What do I have to offer?” The answer was my own pain and struggles. I’m offering it up in hopes that others feel less isolated in their own pain and struggles.
- Audio Femme
PREMIER: ALI HOLDER’S ASSERTIVE “BRUJA” REDEFINES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WITCHY WOMAN
Texas’ Ali Holder emerges as an outspoken women’s rights advocate and a stunning singer/songwriter in her spellbinding song “Bruja,” adapting a Pueblo myth through wondrous lyricism and vivid imagery.
"I don’t think women are allowed to get angry or seek revenge without being seen as crazy, emotional, or weak. I think we need to change that. We need to accept our anger so we can work through it and heal."
Her latest set of songs may be based around a myth, but there’s absolutely no faking Ali Holder’s emotion, her passion, or her immeasurable energy. The Texan artist emerges as an outspoken women’s rights advocate and a stunning singer/songwriter in her spellbinding new single “Bruja,” adapting a Pueblo myth through wondrous lyricism and vivid imagery while speaking out for women who died at the hands of the Mexican cartel.
The mountains of Mexico
Stand just a stone’s throw away from here
Looking down this canyon
I can hear the Rio Grande and the Whipporwills
The hearts of 300 women
Cast in plaster names written below
Still among the missing
Families forever living with ghosts
Call out, I call out
To raise the bones from the earth
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Bruja,” the evocative lead single off Ali Holder’s forthcoming album Uncomfortable Truths (out 2020). Born on Texas’ outlaw country and now based in Austin, Ali Holder’s decade-spanning career has seen her emerge as a prominent local artist with a flare for rejecting rules and bending definitions. A self-proclaimed fan of slashes, Holder describes herself as “folk/country/blues/Americana/jazz” and then some – “I don’t think I have to be any one thing,” she shares in her latest artist biography.
Not only is Holder’s latest music her most distinctive and unique, but it’s also her most meaningful project to date. Following 2017’s Huntress Moon, Uncomfortable Truths is described as being “about the parts of lives and bodies that can be a little ragged, a little worn, a little less than what they were expected to be,” per the artist. “The album spans topics including chronic pain, poverty, privilege and women’s rights, among others.”
The latter subjects feature prominently in “Bruja,” an utterly intoxicating introduction to an album we cannot wait to hear in full. Led in by a beautifully effected lead guitar soloing over a wondrous rock progression, the song immediately adopts a Southern feel with psychedelic tonalities. Warm and cavernous, the fullness of the sound invites onlookers to listen deeper as Holder’s hearty voice relays a tale of pain and longing, perseverance, confidence, and hope:
I was a Bruja in my last life
Cursed to wander this dessert
For all of time
I foretold of the coming
Of all the bloodshed and all the crime
I haunt these borderlands
Not quite human
Not quite beyond the veil
I am the smell of Creosote
I am the dust dug underneath your nails
Call out, I call out
To raise the bones from the earth
Call out, I call out
To march on the men who destroyed you
For Holder, “Bruja” – a Spanish word which translates to “witch” in English” – is a resounding streak of light in an overwhelming darkness.
“I call out to march on the men who destroyed you,” she sings in the chorus. In short, the song is a means of avenging and remembering those whom the Mexican Cartel have murdered.
“I saw an art installation once where 300 plaster casted hearts were hanging from the ceiling,” Holder tells Atwood Magazine. “It was to represent 300 women who had gone missing via the Mexican Cartel. I always wanted to avenge them. I was very into the La Loba (The Wolf Woman) myth at the time. La Loba collects the bones of dead wolves. Once she has the pieces for a whole wolf, she sings and chants and brings another La Loba to life. I love the idea of women being born upon the bones of the women who came before them. I had her raise the bones of the 300 dead women to march as an army on the men who took their lives.”
Holder continues, “I don’t think women are allowed to get angry or seek revenge without being seen as crazy, emotional, or weak. I think we need to change that. We need to accept our anger so we can work through it and heal. So we can rise up and keep fighting for our rights that are being taken away from us.”
There’s nothing mythical about the unfair treatment of women in society; 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. With her dynamic guitar on one side and mesmerizing background vocals on the other, Holder makes a dazzling show of force. Her emotions are tempered, yet we can feel the rage seeping out of the song; “Bruja” is a true spectacle of force meant to awaken our own inner anger – anger over inequality, senseless killing, authorities looking the other way, and anything else you want to throw into the pot.
Stream Ali Holder’s new song exclusively on Atwood Magazine!
I exist now to revenge
Every hand who helped these women
Meet their end
I pick them off one by one
One man for each drop
400 gallons of blood
I help the good ones pass
Cloak them in night
before they cross into Texas
My name is La Loba
I am raising my army of dead
Call out, I call out
To raise the bones from the earth
Call out, I call out
To march on the men who destroyed you
- Atwood Magainze
"This week on My KUTX, Austin’s Ali Holder curates a playlist of influences and musical memories: seeing Patty Griffin dancing at the Broken Spoke, falling in love with Willie Nelson, and listening to the late, great Tom Petty under a Texas sky.” Ali’s guest DJ set on My KUTX at KUTX.ORG.
Wichita Falls native and Austin resident Ali Holder represents the best of what Central Texas music has to offer; outlaw country twang, classically bluesy riffs, and an indie sense of poetry. Inspired by the likes of Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams, her most recent release, From My Veins Will Fall, is a poetic homage to her roots featuring a Hammond organ, shuffling country drums, and Ali’s crystal clear voice, Holder writes songs in a country style with an updated sense of relevance for the youth of today.
Ali Holder currently calls Austin home, but her country roots are deep. Raised on outlaw country, Holder’s sound is Americana but rougher around the edges. She recently stopped in our Studio 1A with her band to show off songs from her new Stephen King-influenced EP Huntress Moon. You can hear Patty Griffin and Brandi Carlisle peeking through “Gemini Gunslinger,” but 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.
Ghostly and gorgeous, country songstress Ali Holder’s voice floats luminously over aching cello and delicately strummed electric guitar on her second EP, Huntress Moon. Ranking among Austin’s brightest songwriters, she allows these five tracks to glow in their beautiful simplicity, not unlike a full moon shimmering in the dark of night.
– Austin Monthly
With four songs (and a spoken word piece) Ali Holder’s new Huntress Moon EP is an achievement of sustained mood: plaintive, mysterious and lovely. From the beautiful bowed bass at the top of the first track, through 18 minutes of clear and sure vocals, bursts of distortion, and swooping melodies, it’s clear this is uncommonly good songwriting. Plus, it’s probably the best Stephen King concept album you’ve ever heard. “[The songs are] all based off of the Dark Tower series,” Holder explained, “intertwined with things that have happened in my life.” She happened to be reading the books during a writer’s residency she attended and worked them into her songs as a way to add variety to more usual themes. “I feel like a lot of my songs are based around love or turmoil and I had just come out of a four year relationship,” she said. “All of my songs were about having to deal with that process of losing someone, so I also wanted to tie [the EP] to something else I was interested in at the time to give it a little more depth, and I just happened to be reading those. It gave me a lot of inspiration to work beyond just the realms of my brain.” Don’t expect plot summary or anything like Led Zeppelin’s J.R.R. Tolkien nerd-out, though. King readers will notice lyrical nods and the more obvious homage, a track called “Gemini Gunslinger,” but the lyrics are more about loss and recovery than King’s dark fantasy. “There’s a pace at which to let things die/But I know no surrender/See I didn’t know about the reap and sow/As the Earth passed behind the moon’s shadow,” Holder sings on closing track “Declaration of Love.” Holder’s previous releases, like 2015’s From My Veins Will Fall, are easier to classify than this one. Listen to those classic freight train drums and it’s easy to declare it a country/folk album. Huntress Moon is a little harder to name: a little alt-country, a little folk. “[Songwriting is] like exercise or anything else,” she said, “you just have to make time for it. And I’ve learned that if I don’t take time to be creative, even if it’s for 15 minutes, it starts to wear on me. It’s like a never-ending to-do list that you don’t do because you become paralyzed by fear. If I do a little bit, even if it’s just minimal, it helps me survive as a person.” “I’m on the outskirts of genres,” Holder said. “I feel like that’s the luxury of playing music these days: you don’t really have to categorize yourself.” Huntress Moon was recorded in one day with Holder’s frequent collaborator Lindsey Verrill on bass (and engineered by Grant Johnson). The writing process, though, was longer, with Holder returning to her once-neglected habit of doing a bit of work every single day, rather than sitting and waiting for inspiration.
Texas Monthly magazine once described Ali Holder’s music as “whiskey-soaked pieces of sad country-influenced songwriting that recalls Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams.” Holder, who performs Wednesday (Oct. 12) in Brooklyn, New York, before returning home to Texas for 10 shows, tells me those two southern music outlaws are in good company with two other legendary influential outlaws from the Deep South. “I grew up listening to Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson, and they were really my first influences in music,” Holder says. “However, when I was 14 years old and actually getting into music in the sense that I was emotionally moved by it, it was Lucinda, Ryan Adams, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Uncle Tupelo. So, yes, Texas Monthly’s description makes sense to me, and I am super-flattered.“To me, Lucinda was everything back then and, mostly, still is. The Car Wheels on a Gravel Road album was everything I loved in one place — love/loss, growing up, the South. And Ryan adams spoke very loudly to the emotionally angsty romantic I was and still am. I love the different worlds they have entered into musically — for better or worse — throughout the years.” Holder grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, started writing, singing and playing guitar in junior high school and later learned to play the ukulele. She moved to Austin and led two bands — one folk, Ali Holder & the Broken Hearted, and one rhythm and blues, Ali Holder & the Raindoggs. “Growing up in Wichita Falls was interesting,” Holder says. “I suppose anywhere you are raised it is more important how you were nurtured. I am lucky to have had folks who exposed me to creativity and encouraged me towards my own. I am thankful for my roots and the support of a small community. However, I am even more thankful for the knowledge and drive to find a way out of that and into my own more expansive place in the world.” Describing her music, Holder has said she often uses “slashes” — folk/country/blues/Americana/jazz — and doesn’t feel comfortable being pinned to a single genre. “I am definitely a songwriter,” she tells me. “I love the words. I love the music as well, of course, and how it brings a song to life. Although I write the music and lyrics in tandem, the music usually doesn’t find its home until I’ve been playing it with the band for a while. “My aims are to constantly evolve as a writer and a musician. I would love to explore all parts of the music world as time goes on. I love playing live, but I would love to venture into a writers’ room in Nashville or collaborate with the visual arts, literature or soundtracks.” Holder’s new single is “Death Reborn,” a track that will be on Huntress Moon, an EP she plans to release next spring. The song, she says, is about “existing in multiple universes and having to kill off one’s old loves in a song, so you can move on and forward in all places of the universe.” “Death Reborn” is part of a series of four songs Holder is releasing one per month through November. “They are all loosely based on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series — a different song for a different part of the series intermingled with stories from my own life,” she says. “August’s song was ‘Gemini Gunslinger,’ which was about the Gunslinger character in the series and the multiple kinds of infinity that exist in the world.” In September 2015, Holder released a six-track EP, From My Veins Will Fall, which followed her full-length debut album, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return. “Veins is different from Saturn, which was an amalgam of writing over the years,” Holder says. “The oldest song on Saturn was 10 years old, and the newest was written about a month before I recorded it in 2013. The songs were almost a sampling of different genres, musically and writing wise. I wrote majority of the Veins songs in one week at a writing residency I was at in the [Texas] Hill Country. I think the EP is more cohesive in writing and musical styles. I was able to organically find more of a sound for myself.” She also has paid close attention to other musicians’ sounds. Asked to identify the best concert she has attended as a spectator, Holder says she could probably name a thousand. “The one that comes to mind right now is Van Morrison,” she adds. “It was somewhere in Arlington, Texas, while I was in college 2004-2009. It was a pretty big venue — one that gets bought out and changes names often. I can’t really handle big venues or festivals anymore — too many people — but this was a truly great show. “What struck me was his stage presence and how pristine his voice still was. He had a ridiculously large band and trumpet section, and it was overwhelmingly beautiful. It was before I ever played with a band, and I was amazed how that many people could work for the greater good on one stage.” Holder says another show in 2001 — “when I was 14 or 15” — most influenced her as a musician. It was a songwriters’ show featuring Walt Wilkins, Susan Gibson and Owen Temple at the Lazy Boy Supper Club in the Royal Theater in Archer City, Texas. “For me, that was the tipping point,” she recalls. “Seeing Susan and hearing this woman who blew me away was the main reason. Until then, there were not many women I had seen live except for a few famous country singers. But I knew, in that moment, what I wanted to do. It prompted me to get a guitar and start writing.”
– No Depression
For her latest EP, holder and her band holed up on a ranch in Medina, with minimal internet, stacks of Stephen King novels, and buffalo galore. The influence of King and the spare surroundings are apparent from the first strums of the title track, as Holder muses about the perils of bearing her soul atop eerie twangs and tremolo. Wistfulness and melancholy prevail on this album, particularly a longing for lost youth and nostalgia for now tangled relationships in better times. “Feel Alive,” a jangly ode to flirting with danger, cuts to the chase with the outset: “It’s what you get for fooling around with younger men/They’re just children playing games.” Holder has a fondness for blunt, authentic lyrics and dramatic shifts in rhythms between versus and choruses – just when you think things are moving along at a pleasant, if predictable, pace, her songs throw out some sort of intriguing sonic twists. “Home You Built” gets off to an energetic, almost bubbly start before transitioning suddenly into a slower, plaintive refrain. It always feels on the verge of something that never quite comes, mirroring that tension between urgency and uncertainty that prevails before making an important decision. The shining star across all tracks, though, is Holder’s rich, smoky voice, which calls to mind that of classic country songstresses Emmylou Harris and Robyn Ludwick.
– Texas Music Magazine
Ali Holder comes from a history of outlaw country, which she grew up with. Along the way, she embraced a number of musical styles because she would not be restricted to just one genre: Folk, country, blues, jazz, any manner of Americana, Holder relishes them all, and each have molded her into the songwriter she is today. But we’re also talking about an individual with a love for words and storytelling, and for Holder, that often translates into a settling down with a good book. Say, something in the horror category, for example?
After isolating herself at a retreat in Medina, TX to work on the songs that would form the From My Veins Will Fall EP, Holder awoke one morning with a most unusual realization: “I thought to myself that if someone were to cut me open, Stephen King words would fall out.” Surely, King would approve.
Exclusive Song Premiere: Ali Holder Makes Us “Feel Alive”
The Austin-by-way-of-Wichita Falls singer-songwriter brings an aching melody to a song about inhabiting your youth.There’s no shortage of great music being made in Texas, by Texans: from slide guitars to 808s, from accordions to distortion pedals, the tapestry of Texas includes the traditions of George Strait, Pantera, UGK, At the Drive-In, and Freddy Fender. Today’s burgeoning artists are tomorrow’s legends, and on the Daily Post’s song premieres, artists explain why their latest tracks are worthy of your time and attention. This week, Wichita Falls native (and current Austinite) Ali Holder brings us “Feel Alive,” a whiskey-soaked piece of sad country-influenced songwriting that recalls Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams. She has more like it on her six-song EP From My Veins Will Fall, out September 18—but first, she tells us about the song below.
– Texas Monthly
Ali Holder’s swirl of jazzy and bluesy Americana defies genre labels and keeps listeners engaged through all of its twists and turns. After releasing her first album, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, Holder embarked on a ten-day songwriting retreat in Medina, Texas to work on her second EP, From My Veins Will Fall. Largly inspired by the novels of Steven King, her latest release beautifully captures her hauntingly rich alto timbre.
“Unmistakably informed by country greats, Ali Holder’s new EP incorporates rolling organ and soulful twang. However, this six-song effort’s lifeblood lies in simmering, aching electric guitar riffs and Holder’s unbridled vocals. Balancing country music’s history and ’90s rock, this EP emerges as diverse and powerful.”
– Austin Monthly
“I’m a damn good liar, but I’m awful at faking it.” It’s lyrics like this, and a gloriously sultry vocal performance that have earned Ali Holder a number of comparisons to some of the songwriting greats that span different genres. A cross somewhere between Lucinda Williams by way of Ryan Adams mixed up with a little bit of Brandi Carlile seems to just about give you a handle on what awaits with the release of Holder’s new EP, From My Veins Will Fall. If that seems like a heady combination that’s hard to come by, give this a spin and settle in.
Holder has found the sultry sweet spot between outlaw country and introspective folk; there’s a sexy and powerful blend of lyricism and melody that allows her vocals to bring both light and shadow to an already well-defined soundscape. The ease with which she does this, however, only highlights her natural talent for songwriting and her dynamic vocals. The title track casts a great first impression that’s somehow eclipsed from one track to the next until the final strains of “Ghost of a Man” fade away.
“Feel Alive” is a standout, an easy pick for a radio ready track that bears some of the strongest lyrical content and one of the most accessible musical moments. “Don’t Show the Devil” taps into an earthier, darker vibe that moves with a languid quality that lingers. Vocals and a hefty guitar line from Jeremy Menking intermingle in a satisfying blend here. It’s got a vintage country-folk vibe that follows the lines of classic storytelling with just a touch of the blues. Then there’s “Home You Built”, a tune that leans a little bit into pop territory (just a little) before leaning even harder into a strong hook that anchors Holder’s vocals with the harmonies of Daniel Thomas Phipps. “Ghost of a Man” rounds out the EP with a wonderfully raw and vulnerable vocal performance that propels this record to another level.
From My Veins Will Fall is a true artistic showpiece for its maker. Ali Holder has delivered an unflinchingly authentic set of songs that bear the mark of a storyteller. Her lyrics are undiluted and only outmatched by her flawless and raw vocal performance. From My Veins Will Fall not only succeeds as a wonderful piece of writing, but it stirs the soul.
Americana, by its very definition, is an umbrella term for a plethoric anthology of “American” musical styles, despite the fact in recent years it seems to have taken on a sound all its own. In its essence, it is country, folk, blues, rock, and more – the interplay of “roots” with the rock ‘n’ roll that helped launch the music industry as a force to be reckoned with. It is rare for an artist or album to effortlessly encompass all that Americana is and hopes to be, but if anyone can lay claim to such a feat, it is Ali Holder. Her debut album ‘In Preparation For Saturn’s Return’ drew critical praise from No Depression, Daytrotter and LoneStar Magazine upon its 2013 release, and her influences range from Brandi Carlile and Ryan Adams, to Florence and The Machine, to Janis Joplin and the women of Lilith Fair.
“I don’t have to be any one thing,” Ali says of her refusal to be pigeon-holed, and it’s this diverse approach to music-making that provides her songs such a unique tone. On her new EP ‘From My Veins Will Fall’, which was released in September, she leaps between rhythms, melodies, instrumental groups and thematic ideas with controlled abandon, seeming to be reckless but taking just enough care for it to always slot into place. On the title track opener, for example, she begins with an atmospheric electric guitar line that is coated in reverb and delay, pushing her alto voice into its upper reaches for urgency on the opening lines. However, soon after the 40 second mark she changes tack, introducing a new pace guided by relaxed drum beat and the strong ringing of an organ that adds a bluesy, southern flair. Guitar strumming thickens the texture, as her vocal delivery builds from the initial melody into something that is tonally related but less direct and emotionally stricken. The first section later returns to merge with the new, forming a refrain that is many things at once.
Another example is the closing track ‘Ghost of A Man’. It starts ever so gently, just simply picked acoustic guitar setting a slight sway in motion, Ali’s piercing vocals joining in much the same way they did in the first track. But before the first minute has approached a totally different rhythm jumps in, drums instigating a groove that guides distorted guitar fuzz swelling around her. More up and down than the title song, however, in this case the refrain disappears quickly and we return to the initial rhythm, albeit with a marching drum backing and electric noodling instead of acoustic. Still, this hot and cold between subtle and dramatic is incredibly effective for highlighting conflict, and we find ourselves emotionally driven by the music’s journey.
Elsewhere, however, Ali combines her experimentalism with pop sensibilities. ‘Feel Alive’ is comparatively quite simple, alt pop stylings roughened up with folk rock production, while ‘Home You Built’ sits in a happy medium between the changes of ‘From My Veins Will Fall’ and the comfortable convention of ‘Feel Alive’. Sometimes I must admit the unwillingness to stick to one approach can feel a little tiresome, especially when trying to establish a pace for your own thoughts or activities, but I admire her refusal to fall into a rut and at the very least can commend her technical handle on music.
Throughout the six songs on this EP Ali grounds herself in poetic expressions of emotional strife, at times cryptic and often reflective, and usually allowing key lyrics to fall into mumbling. I think in hindsight I would have preferred to have a lyric sheet as it can be a challenge to pick out every line, but it is not hard to tell that Ali is a rather capable lyricist regardless. She wrote every song on this set, and their personal connections to her show.
While this is not a perfect record, it is still a damn good one, and a really enjoyable listen. Ali gave herself an impressive launch with her debut two years ago, and this new EP does a solid job of following that up. I’m looking forward to hearing more of her in the future.
– For the Country Record
Finally, I leave you with From My Veins Will Fall, the new album by Austin based singer-songwriter Ali Holder (pictured above). The past week or so, I’ve been playing the album so much that if it were a vinyl record, I’d have worn out the first copy and would be well on my way to wearing out the replacement. To pinpoint what makes this album so captivating is a little hard to pinpoint. I will say that her voice, equal parts sultry and heartbreaking, is a significant factor. Also, Jeremy Menking’s electric guitar contributions are powerful without ever going over the top.
– Ghost of Blind Lemon
Ali Holder — From My Veins Will Fall
From the strange, discordant opening strum on Ali Holder’s sophomore release, From My Veins Will Fall is a short but powerful piece. Holder’s first album, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, was a bit whimsical. Whatever’s happened in the last two years — Saturn’s return hitting her pretty hard, I’d expect — it's stamped that right out of Holder, but she seems to be stronger for it. “Feel Alive”‘s world-weary tone reminds me of Lucinda Williams, though Holder is hard to pin down throughout these songs. Holder glides between country, pop, rock, and Southern Gothic. It speaks to the power of her vision that all of these songs are so united in spirit. It’s a sort of weariness and sadness that comes from learning the hard way and the strength that comes afterwards. “Elastic Time” will surely be on rotation for me as a reminder that this too shall pass, and it’ll have a great soundtrack when it does.
– Adobe and Tears
Rare is the voice captivates you from its first utterance. Yet throaty siren Ali Holder does just that. Following on her 2013 solo debut, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, the Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter fluidly glides between genres — often within a single song — backed by a cast of fellow Austin musicians on her latest release, From My Veins Will Fall.
Tackling gothic blues (“Don’t Show the Devil”), pop rhythms (“Home You Built”) and soul (“Elastic Time”), Holder is both nurturing and castigating as on the yearning title track with its literary vivisection, stuttering closer “Ghost of a Man” and the waltzing “Feel Alive,” where Holder teases “I’m a damn good liar.”
A mystic soul with a voice that could weather any element, Holder’s greatest strength is her words. A whip-smart lyricist who doesn’t shy away from rejoinders, Holder discerns human emotion in the most dire predicaments, illuminating the human condition. A succinct release, Holder’s voice and words linger long after From My Veins Will Fall goes quiet.
- Bucket Full of Nails
Today Ali Holder released her new EP, From My Veins Will Fall. In six songs, she packs in more fearless emotion than most are ever able to access. I’ve managed to stay musically surrounded by powerful and inspiring singers and songwriters who so happen to be women – and Ali is no exception. Her lyrics feel like streams of thought pulled from my own head (hence the strong connection to these songs) and the subtle gravel in her voice is just the cherry on top for me.
It’s Friday; there’s a lot of new music coming out today. But, if this was the only album you dove into today, I promise, you wouldn’t be disappointed. AND, if you’re local to Austin, Ali will be playing her CD release show tomorrow night (September 19th) at Cactus Cafe. Get out there and love some music, folks.
– Quarters for the Juxbox
In Preparation for Saturn’s Return
Ali Holder, recent graduate student at UT, chose a different college town to record her debut, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return. That road trip to Oxford, Miss., paid off, too. Bagging the brightest musical movements throughout the South, the 27-year-old singer and her band blend Mississippi blues, New Orleans brass, and, a given for the Texas native, Southwestern country, all topped with an R&B-rounded alto. Holder’s measured vocals are convincing in each form they take: the tears-in-my-beers country of “Drinking Double,” the blues smoke of “Falling Up,” and even the simplicity of free jazz cut “Moon.” Compositionally, her band zooms between the genre buffet with ease and smooth transition. We hope to see more of Holder, even after Saturn’s Return.
– Austin Chronicle
Ali Holder – In Preparation for Saturn’s Return
In Preparation for Saturn’s Return is the debut from Austin’s ALI HOLDER. It’s a smoldering collection of songs which combine country, folks, jazz and blues. Like almost any good record, the songs therein deal with love and loss, offering different views and vulnerabilities. There’s a sexual tension in Holder’s vocals as her voice strains to deliver gut-wrenching lines, and I liken her to Lucinda Williams in a lot of instances. There’s a heavy classic country influence in songs like “Mourning Dove” and “Drinking Double” which was listed as one of Daytrotter’s best songs of 2013, but also a distinct darkness in songs like “Blood in the Basement” which recounts the regrets of a violent relationship.
The standout tracks on the album, for me, are the first single, “The Only Thing,” which biographically covers the singer’s shortcomings while she tries to remain faithful (pleading for the benefit of the doubt) as she swears she won’t hurt her new love. This is a song that has enough mainstream appeal that it could (should) have regular play on country stations.
Then there’s my personal favorite song, the duet “I Saw a Wolf” with Austin singer-songwriter Daniel Thomas Phipps. Their voices mesh as they trade verses and harmonize in all the right spots, tying the package with a ribbon of danger and excitement.
Musically, the production is consistent, without being slick and features top notch players like Phipps, fiddler Phoebe Hunt and guitarist Jeremy Menking. The songs are varied enough that they don’t get boring or repetitive, but similar enough in content that the listener won’t notice as the songs slip from one to the next. Holder is definitely one of the up-and-coming voices from the Austin music scene. Pick up the album for all the proof you need.
– Ryan’s Smashing Life
Though her sound is rooted in folk, traces of R&B and blues are present, and the pedal steel found on several tracks serves as a perfect accompaniment to Holder’s smoky alto. While the songs on ‘In Preparation fro Saturn’s Return’ are an intimate look at Holder’s past, they’re also a sign of a very bright future.”
– Texas Music Magazine/Releases/Fall 2013
Ali Holder: In Preparation for Saturn’s Return
The swinging two step of Falling Up is a surprising and addictive opening to Texas singer Ali Holder’s In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, her debut solo album. The bluesy electric guitar and fiddle of the song reaches right through the speakers and pull you into the album right from the start.
Holder’s got a great, addictive bluesy voice and the material here–all originals by Holder–shows a solid grasp of what makes a good song. The 27 year old Holder’s been performing live since she was 16, and it shows: her songs are personal and intimate but feel like experiences we can all share. Lost & Found, You and I and Mourning Dove are particularly fine examples.
While the opening track has its roots firmly in the blues, songs like Drinking Doubles demonstrate more of a country aesthetic. Holder moves smoothly between styles and presents a collection of highly listenable songs to welcome you into her world with.
In Preparation for Saturn’s Return is named in honour of an astrological event where the planet Saturn is said to return to to the same place in the sky as the moment of a person’s birth. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 27 years for a follow up: this is a solid debut that shows a lot of promise for the future. In Preparation for Saturn’s Return is available on iTunes. Ali Holder is touring Texas to celebrate the launch of her album.
Ali Holder operates on an interstellar plane of songwriting, allowing her impassioned folk music to take influence from blues, country, R&B and the stars above. In Preparation For Saturn’s Return is the appropriate name of 27 year old Holder’s debut album, titled so in reference to the time it takes Saturn to make a full orbit around the sun: 27 years. As she prepares to release this debut on August 27th, Ali realizes that she has completed a similar cycle in her life. Recently graduated from the University of Texas with an M.A. in Art Education, Holder’s smoky vocals paint her songs with the ups and downs of merging into adulthood and beginning new chapters.
Ali Holder has been touring around Texas in preparation of her album’s release but we were lucky enough to have her recently stop by for a Studio 1A session – don’t miss the results below!
Drawing on Inspiration
Ali Holder breezes through Strange Brew, one of the coolest of the many cool kids and musicians who have made the 24-hour South Austin coffee shop/listening room a second home. Flashing a winsome smile and offering a vivacious greeting — which no doubt serve her well both onstage and on her occasional day gigs as a substitute art teacher — Holder clearly has the makings of a high Q Score, that metric marketers use to gauge a brand or a person’s likability with the public.
Establishing a brand and a recognizable name — whether on Madison Avenue or as a performer in venues throughout Texas and the Southwest — is what every young and savvy singer-songwriter must do today to ensure they’re still around tomorrow. Holder’s well aware of that and laughs easily at the suggestion that she may have set herself up for a Willis Alan Ramsey-like gulf between her recent debut release and that dreaded second album. The title of the Wichita Falls-born and Austin-based artist’s maiden effort, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, is a reference to the 27 years it takes for the ringed planet to return to the very spot in the cosmos it was on the day one was born. Fortunately, she’s fairly confident it won’t be two-and-half decades before there’s another batch of new Ali Holder music — daunting though it may be at this stage of her career to even think about knocking out a follow-up to her still new debut.
“People tell me you’ve got a year after you put one out and then you’ve got to start making a new album,” she says, referring to the advice some of her more established peers have offered her. “And I’m like, ‘What?!’”
Holder has been looking and listening to the stars — and following artistic muses — for years. She fondly recalls taking in shows by folks like Susan Gibson, Walt Wilkins, and Owen Temple at the Royal Theatre in Archer City, Texas, as a tween and thinking “This is it!”
She had familial role models, too. Her mother and grandmother were both art teachers, so Holder pursued an art education degree at the University of Texas, Arlington, while also working on the crafts of songwriting and guitar playing. But all it took was a single year in the state’s public school system to convince Holder that it was on a stage strumming a guitar and not in an art room wearing a smock where she truly belonged. The bureaucracy and budget woes wore her down. “I figured out real quick,” she says, “that I didn’t ever want to be unhappy like that.”
So she made like the Clampetts and loaded up the truck and moved to, well, where most pioneering Texas musicians end up: Austin. Where she “just kind of fell into a band” and recorded a five-song EP she was okay with, but doesn’t consider as her official musical coming out. There are also a few surviving tracks from her spirited teenage years that are floating around out there on the infobahm that one can find with a bit of Googling. But Holder prefers you not bother.
With a sound and style not unlike fellow North Texan Michelle Shocked, Holder exudes an urbane folk-sophisticate vibe in songs that, to crib a line from her haunting, Tarantinoish “Blood in the Basement,” both count blessings and measure out pain. Holder’s musical aesthetic is a bit film noir meets Americanish catch-all, with the jazzy feel of the album’s opener, “Falling Up,” serving up muted trumpet, smoking guitar, and Phoebe Hunt’s lovely violin side by side with the Gillian Welch-like simple traditional sound of “Mourning Dove” and the steely and boozy roadhouse delight, “Drinking Double.”
So the 10 tracks on In Preparation for Saturn’s Return are an eclectic batch, marking Holder as someone who will probably always be hard to be pin down, genre-wise. And that’s fine with her. “I use slashes a lot,” Holder quips. “Folk/country/blues/Americana/jazz. I don’t think I have to be just one thing.”
Akin to the kind of artist who dabbles in drawing, sculpture, printmaking, pastels, film, and found objects, Holder embraces whatever it sonically takes to get her vision across. “I see every song as its own little artwork,” she says.
Holder also turns the singer-songwriter label on itself. Despite having a voice that easily merits the descriptor “beguiling,” she suggests that she sees herself primarily as a word person and shaper of song, “… then a singer … and then a player.”
Truthfully, Holder’s musicianship really needn’t ride in the backseat, either; that’s just her charming tendency to self deprecate.
“I really didn’t learn to play music — and really focus on making melodies — until I moved to Austin,” she insists. “I mean down here, they actually talk about theory and notes and all that stuff!”
– Lonestar Music Magazine
With a new album dropping, the singer-songwriter hits local venues with her bluesy sound.
By Courtney Bell. Photos by Courtney Dudley
Ali Holder is a quintessential Texas country crooner with a flair for the blues. Holder has released her new record of original songs, In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, named for an astrological event in which Saturn completes its orbit around the sun. Holder turns 27 years old this year, the same number of years it takes Saturn to complete its orbit and return to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of her birth. This occurrence is believed to shepherd a person in to the next stage of his or her life. As Holder turns 27, she will graduate from the University of Texas with a master’s degree in art education and release this incredibly personal collection of songs about love, loss and adulthood.
Her dusty alto sound wielded through original heartbreaking lyrics creates the perfect soundtrack to an at-home dinner date or a sunny country cruise to your favorite barbeque joint on the outskirts of town. You and I inspires visions of lovers reconnecting under moonlit pecan trees on a hot Texas summer night. The sadness Holder purveys in Double Drinking crawls under your skin and forces you to feel the breakup that inspired the lyrics. Holder could be the love child of Alison Krauss and Patsy Cline with her hauntingly smoky sound intertwined in country roots.
- Austin Woman Magazine
Ali Holder: In Preparation for Saturn’s Return
I can’t say I ever thought about going to a smoky jazz lounge and hearing something twangy. After listening to Ali Holder’s solo debut, In Preparation For Saturn’s Return, I can now picture that happening. There are certainly artists fusing jazz and country or bluegrass. See our coverage of Phoebe Hunt’s latest for an example, and oh by the way she plays violin on this record and contributes vocals to several songs. But it’s Ms. Holder’s smoky voice that really pushes this into Village Vanguard or Green Mill Lounge territory.
Falling Up starts the disc with a Miles Davis-kind of cool number that just oozes hipness, not to mention some nice instrumental riffs including violin and trumpet. I Saw A Wolf features some nice organ parts and a vocal duet with guitar Daniel Thomas Phipps. Blood In the Basement is the darkest song on the album with Holder singing about “just trying to wrap my head around this thing we call love.”
For more of a twangy flavor I recommend Drinking Double. With it’s steel guitar presence it has that cheating-heart feel that any Hank Williams fan will appreciate. All With Your Help is a little funkier, but with some nice picking. Mourning Dove picks up some Appalachian sounds and with a production value that comes across as having the band sitting around your living room, very nice.
n Preparation For Saturn’s Return refers to an astrological event associated with one’s transition to adulthood and maturity. It’s a nice milestone for a songwriter to celebrate with stories of what life has taught them. Ali Holder shares some of her perspective, supported by a crack team of musicians, and turns the whole thing into a really enjoyable album.
Homegrown Artists Make Mark
By Don Chance Special to the Times Record News
Austin singer/songwriter Ali Holder lists Wichita Falls as her hometown, but her new album, “In Preparation For Saturn’s Return,” could be her ticket to prominence on the national stage.
With a smoky blues tinge to her folk-based approach, Holder offers 10 nicely crafted, self-penned songs that show an impressive stylistic range, while never straying too far from a comfortably laid-back foundation.
And a tasteful less-is-more production sound showcases the way her vocals work perfectly with her lyrics to put her delivery out front, where it belongs.
This is music that sounds like it was made by real musicians who know and respect each other, and not just some generic gathering of first-call studio hired hands.
Kicking off with the bluesy swing of “Falling Up,” it’s obvious that Holder and her pickers were having a good time in the studio.
Playful interplay between Holder’s singing and violinist Phoebe Hunt’s freewheeling fiddle is a good indicator of the memorable music to come.
Songs like “Drinking Double,” “Mourning Dove,” “Lost and Found,” “The Only Thing” and “I Saw a Wolf,” a dark but entertaining duet with guitarist Daniel Thomas Phipps, are standouts in a whole set of standouts. Good music.
– Times Record News
Friday, September 6, 2013
“In Preparation For Saturn’s Return” by Ali Holder
It takes Saturn about 27 years to make a full orbit around the sun, an occurrence of major astrological impact, we’re told, and one that aligns nicely with In Preparation for Saturn’s Return, the solo debut from 27-year-old Lone Star singer/songwriter Ali Holder. The album’s title also signifies the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, in Holder’s case the completion of graduate school and Saturn’s start of a promising music career. “I’m ready to take all these songs that represent different pieces of my life with me into my next stage,” says Holder. Drawing on the folk and Americana influences on prominent display during her stay in the university town and roots music mecca known as Austin, TX, songs like the plaintive and sweetly alluring “The Only Thing” and the waltzing melancholy of “Drinkin’ Double,” featuring Jeremy Menkin’s crying steel guitar lines, swing and sway like tunes flowing from some roadside diner jukebox.
– Direct Current
RECOMMENDATION: Ali Holder, “In Preparation for Saturn’s Return” (forthcoming August 27)
May 24, 2013 | Author Katie
When my friend Chris Fullerton (known better to most of you as @electricpencils) sends me music, it’s usually smart to stop what I’m doing and listen. He’s got incredible taste in music, not just in terms of depth of catalogues and talents, but in width: he listens to everything. I can’t pay someone a higher compliment than that. He lives in Austin, and he’s spent a lot of time listening to Ali Holder lately. Unsurprisingly, when Chris told me I needed to check her out, it was for good reason. In Preparation for Saturn’s Return is a classic-sounding country record, full of expanse, longing, heartbreak, and incredible detail. On top of that, Ali Holder’s voice is one part Lucinda, one part Natalie Maines: deep but clear, bends but doesn’t break. I can imagine how good these songs sound in a small bar– it seems like their natural placement. But they’ve worked pretty well to underscore my longing for home here in a Louisville hotel, as well.
The plaintive fiddle that flows in and out of the first track, “You and I,” sets a hypnotic tone on from the start: between the southwestern imagery and sound, and Holder’s expressive, clear voice, it’s a record that compels you to keep listening. When she says, “Don’t you know, things could be different/ Don’t you know, we’ve got luck on our side/ Don’t you know things could be different/ For you and I, for you and I, for you and I,” you know her record is going to be full of songs about things that could have happened, or even should have happened, but are lost for one reason or another.
My favorite song is “I Saw a Wolf,” (seen here as they play it under a bridge) which has the line, “I’d kill if I had the chance,” before another fantastic Austin vocalist, Daniel Thomas Phillips, joins her on the track. It’s got a slinky natural evil to it, an embracing of all the scary, violent parts of nature (both in terms of animal and human): “I feel dangerous, I feel dangerous,” they croon together, and you believe them. So it’s especially powerful when the last stanza changes:
I wake up now at night
I wake up screaming
Covered in fright
Can’t shake this feeling
I pulled back the trigger on my gun
I decided to run… I am comforted somehow
It’s a song that goes on a complete journey, and by starting with the line, “I saw a wolf,” it’s also got a strange exoticism to it.
Musically, “Blood in the Basement” might be my favorite track. It’s got a weird Spanish feel to it, but it’s also strangely melodic in a way that I can’t put my finger on. There’s a four-note guitar line that follows the verses, and it’s got an incredible movement to it. It’s a really different sounding song, partially because she sets such a strong country tone in the beginning. This song is harder to pin down, but really hits home with lines like, “I’m just trying to pin down what we call love.”
The record fits together really well, and though I could call each song out for something wonderful: “Mourning Dove” for the swelling vocals and the bright guitar; “Lost and Found” for the strings in the background that color the feel of the song; the intricate plinking in “Moon”: it stands on its own as a whole composition just as easily. It’s got the tone of a country record, but it’s got some colors and moments that make it stand out as something separate from that community, as well. It reminds me a little of how I felt when I bought Robert Ellis’s Photographs– gorgeous classic country voice, some classic country sounds, but something deep and modern going on there too.
The record comes out August 27th, but until then, you can find Ali Holder on the web, and it seems like she’s playing Austin all the time right now. There are some other dates listed, too. For a full list, check out her website!
– Katie Darby Recommends
From My Veins Will Fall Ali Holder
Who else tipped me on Ali Holder but that connoisseur of female Americana, Erwin Zijleman. I liked ‘In Preparation of Saturn’s Return’ so much that I ordered the album on Bandcamp and wrote my own review as well. And now Ali Holder is back with a new mini album that I seem to like even more than her previous effort.
On From My Veins Will Fall Ali Holder has stripped down to the basis of her music. To what she, in my imagination, could sound like live with a just a basic band around her. All embellishments, no matter how alive, are gone and makes her voice jump out in a very direct way. The first strong point of this mini album.
All you hear on From My Veins Will Fall you will have heard before. In that way there is nothing original on the album. But before you stop reading, you better pay attention first. Although Ali Holder falls into a long tradition of singers in the Americana/roots/rock tradition (she likes slashes, so let me put in a few here), she adds herself to this mix and that allows her to climb to the higher branches of the tree in an extremely fast but graceful fashion.
The basis of the album was laid in a ten day isolation writing session on a Texas ranch with more buffalo than men around her. The daily desert was a Stephen King book, both as reward and inspiration. These ideas she brought to her band and producer Andrew Ratcliff and together they turned her songs into these free-flowing towers of roots power. Fluent yet powerful. And there is strength number two for you. On this album Ali Holder impresses without having to use any kind of force. The songs do all the work for her. I’ll cede you the guitar solo in ‘Don’t Show The Devil’, which is using brute force, but it is the exception to the rule.
The songs on From My Veins Will Fall are not perfect pop songs. There may be a concealed pop element in the songs, but they are not pop. Perfect though they are. It all fits flawlessly, the songs sound like they were always here as if they are cover version of long existing songs. So here comes another strong point: we are listening to Ali Holder originals here that touch this level of proficiency. They are totally original in all their familiarity.
Finally I mention the great playing and singing on the album. The harmonies on ‘Elastic Time’ are fabulous. The interplay of the band is functional and supportive, making Ali Holder stand out, and then going the extra mile, making the sound so smooth, while keeping all the edges in the right places, making the music more dangerous than expected. The is the best of the multiverse, certainly not both worlds only.
Fellow Texan Amanda Pearcy comes to mind in the final song, ‘Ghost Of A Man’, although she sings about ‘Comfort The Soul Of A Man’. In feel the songs resonate the same way for me. Again the edge comes out with the electric guitar at the right moment ending the EP on another musical high.
Where ‘In Preparation Of Saturn’s Return’ was multi-layered, even eclectic in parts, From My Veins Will Fall is much more even and same minded. At the same time, it is so much better. It’s too bad that I discovered the album too late, as it would have made my top 10 last year, with two fingers in the nose.
“Falling Up” Video Release Press: