Lonnie Holley announces his new album, Oh Me Oh My, out March 10th on Jagjaguwar, and presents “Oh Me, Oh My (with Michael Stipe).” Both elegant and ferocious, Oh Me Oh My sharpens the work contained on Holley’s 2018 Jagjaguwar debut, MITH. It is stirring in one moment and a balm the next. It details histories both global and personal. Acclaimed collaborators like Stipe, Sharon Van Etten (“None of Us Have But a Little While”), Moor Mother (“I Am Part of the Wonder,” “Earth Will Be There”), Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (“Kindness Will Follow Your Tears”) and Rokia Koné (“If We Get Lost They Will Find Us”) serve as choirs of angels and co-pilots, giving Lonnie’s message flight, and reaffirming him as a galvanizing, iconoclastic force across the music community
Oh Me Oh My is an achievement in the refinement of Holley’s impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. During each session, Holley and producer Jacknife Lee (The Cure, REM, Modest Mouse) would discuss the essence of the songs and distill Holley’s words to their most immediate center. On the title track, which deals with mutual human understanding, Holley is as profound as ever in far fewer phrases: “The deeper we go, the more chances there are, for us to understand the oh-me’s and understand the oh-my’s.”
Holley’s harrowing youth and young manhood in the Jim Crow South are well-told at this point — taken away from his family as a child by a burlesque dancer who ultimately left him in the care of the proprietors of a whiskey house; his abuse at the infamous Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children (he is a primary subject of Unreformed, a new podcast from iHeartMedia); the destruction of his remarkable art environment by the city of Birmingham. But, as mentioned, Holley’s music is less a performance of pain endured and more a display of perseverance, of relentless hope, of Thumbs Up For Mother Universe.
Oh Me Oh My features both kinetic, shortwave funk that calls to mind Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and the deep space satellite sounds of Eno’s ambient works. There are also elements of Laurie Anderson’s meditations, elements of Gil Scott-Heron’s profound longform soul, elements of John Lurie’s grabbag jazz, and yes, elements of Sun Ra’s bold afrofuturism. But Oh Me Oh My is a triumphant sonic achievement of its own.
Holley reflects, “My art and my music are always closely tied to what is happening around me, and the last few years have given me a lot to thoughtsmith about. When I listen back to these songs I can feel the times we were living through. I’m deeply appreciative of the collaborators, especially Jacknife, who helped the songs take shape and really inspired me to dig deeper within myself.”
Holley’s music and visual art (which is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Gallery of Art and is represented by the illustrious Blum & Poe) is much more about our place in the cosmos than the cosmos itself. It’s about how we overcome adversity and tremendous pain; about how we develop and maintain an affection for our fellow travelers; about how we stop wishing for some “beyond” and start caring for the one rock we have. Holley has never delivered this message as clear, as concise and as exhilaratingly as he does on Oh Me Oh My.
Oh Me Oh My Tracklist:
2. I Am A Part Of The Wonder (with Moor Mother)
3. Oh Me, Oh My (with Michael Stipe)
4. Earth Will Be There (with Moor Mother)
5. Mount Meigs
6. Better Get That Crop In Soon
7. Kindness Will Follow Your Tears (with Bon Iver)
8. None Of Us Have But A Little While (with Sharon Van Etten)
9. If We Get Lost They Will Find Us (with Rokia Koné)
10. I Can’t Hush
11. Future Children