The music of Atlanta outsider artist Lonnie Holley remains as homemade and instinctual as ever | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

The music of Atlanta outsider artist Lonnie Holley remains as homemade and instinctual as ever 

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click to enlarge Lonnie Holley

Lonnie Holley

Tim Duffy

Self-taught Atlanta musician and visual artist Lonnie Holley has accrued ardent supporters since he dropped his first recordings earlier in the decade. Tonight he rolls into town with Animal Collective as the supporting act on their national tour. Due from Jagjaguwar in September, Holley’s new album MITH was cut in various sessions around the globe—from New York and Atlanta to Cottage Grove, Oregon, and Porto, Portugal—over the last five years. The diverse cast of stellar musicians who join him speak to his appeal; rediscovered new age icon Laraaji, folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, saxophonist Sam Gendel, and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily are among his helpers, but Holley is utterly front and center. He sings and plays piano in a highly intuitive way while his guests shuffle around his performance in complementary fashion. Holley’s pitch-challenged singing draws upon soul and gospel traditions in stream-of-conscious meditations on his youth and the disturbing state of our culture—“I Woke Up in Fucked-Up America” leaves little doubt about his perspective—and the essence of his existence. There’s a bit of Bill Withers’s rasp in Holley’s instinctive delivery, which he abundantly peppers with eccentric trills (a la Billy Stewart in “Summertime”) and a descending wordless Sam Cooke affectation that he drops into nearly every song like some kind of Duchampian readymade, while his presence and persona veer closer to Sun Ra.   v

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