I Confess, the new album from Holly Palmer, spans ten songs of love, sex, personal demons and how the hell you get past them.
The grooves are wide and fat, the ballads tender and direct. It's music that comes from that place between straight and swung, between soul music and torch songs, between the heart and the head. You can hear it in the dark and raw emotion of "You Keep Me Hanging On," Holly's rendition of the Supremes' classic, produced by Don Was. You can hear it in the green eyed soul of "Just So You Know," or the roadhouse gospel of "Down So Low" featuring keyboard legend Billy Preston, or the bittersweet reverie of "Jumping Jack" produced by Steve Lindsey, with a cracking mix by the inimitable Dr. Dre.
Most of all you can hear it in the grace, power and timeless style of Holly's voice... the hushed whisper, the seductive sigh, the anguished demands of a crossed lover and the ultimate confession. Her lyrics are full of distinctive wordplay, skewering lovers and her own feelings with equal abandon. Her portraits of self-doubt, personal ambiguities and failed affairs go head to head with the joys of uncovering love. It's a lyric and melodic scope that is both personal and universal, real and surreal - the portrait of an artist as a young woman.
"I want the heart and the soul and all of the dreams that I had as a little girl," Holly sings in the autobiographical "You Help Me." Born and raised in Southern California and Seattle, she survived the travails of youth by surrounding herself with music - listening, experimenting, honing her skills while playing in school bands and singing jazz standards. Her favorite record was a live two-album set by Sarah Vaughn. It was Sarah singing "Sassy's Blues," who first taught Holly about phrasing and sound and feel. Drawing on influences that range from Ms. Vaughn to John Lennon, David Bowie and Al Green, Holly began to develop a unique vocal style while attending the Berklee School of Music, melding a love for classic songwriting with a spectrum of new approaches, each enhancing and expanding her expressive abilities.
Relocating to New York in the mid-90's, she recorded her eponymously titled, and critically acclaimed debut album, toured with the likes of k.d. lang and Paula Cole, and garnered a fervent international following. In the process, she continued her ceaseless creative quest, opening up ever-new horizons by never settling for the prevailing musical point of view. In one live show that fans still talk about, Holly and her band re-imagined the entire soundtrack to the epic Wim Wenders film Until The End Of The World, transforming the songs of R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and others into a stunning evening of musical cinematography.
Then came a new venture. Asked by an old friend from Boston to add vocals to a work in progress, Holly found that the project was in fact a new album by David Bowie. Admiring her vocal style and skills, he asked Holly to not only duet with him on the album Hours, but to join his band and tour worldwide as well.
Back from the road, Holly's restless spirit prompted yet another move, this time back across the country to Los Angeles, where she began a long and fruitful series of musical collaborations, bringing to the forefront her lifelong love of classic soul music. "I wanted to frame my voice with just a few elements. Most important in writing and recording these songs were that I'd leave myself lots of space to sing in. I wanted kicking back beats and big warm bass as my platform to jump from. I think of myself as a storyteller; my main job is to expose characters I've created and their stories. In working to get that right, I discovered that above all other considerations, the immediacy of the human voice and all that it can convey are what I'm most interested in."
The result is I Confess, ten new songs of love, sex, personal demons and how the hell you get past them.