Lonnie Holley: MITH review – full of violence and beauty


A lifelong outsider artist, Alabama-born Lonnie Holley came to renown for his visual art, and in 2012 for his first foray into music. MITH is the s elf-taught piano man’s third outing, and although neophytes might struggle with Holley’s shruggy attitude to tunefulness – his free-ranging sound recalls, at different times, Tom Waits, Gil Scott-Heron or RL Burnside – a coterie of associates help to flesh out Holley’s non-linear storytelling into something more conventionally accomplished. With its swish and sway, There Was Always Water probably counts as jazz. The late Richard Swift contributes, as does ambient zither player Laraaji.

We’re not just here for that, though; we’re here for I Snuck Off the Slave Ship, an extraordinary 17-minute piano meditation full of violence and beauty. With the force of a lifetime at the mercy of unkind forces behind him, Holley’s I Woke Up In A Fucked-Up America is a tour de force set in the nightmare of the present-day.

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