Jolie Holland

Tues May 25

Aladdin Theater

3016 SE Milwaukie

The floorboards creak as the singer, a girl your age with long dark brown curls, shifts in her chair, tuning an acoustic guitar. She coughs, taps the mic, and squints out into the audience. Somebody laughs loud near the back of the club--a hard, drinker's laugh--and the singer readjusts the guitar in her lap and begins to strum a dark, quiet folk progression--you can barely hear it.

"Nobody sings like Mary Sue Bell/ Nobody prays like Willie MacTell," she sings, and suddenly sounds so much older than you, older than everybody in the room, like an ancient, scratchy Woody Guthrie record. Or maybe she sounds 1,000 years younger, like Cat Power if Cat Power wasn't on GAP billboards.

"But I haven't seen hide nor hair of him/ since he lost his mind and was born again/ off the coast of Oregon," she sings, midway through the next song. It's from her first record, Catalpa, which was done as intimate, barefoot porch demos for her family back home--early summer evening songs--something her grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles would like. They are simple songs, ghostly country blues, lyrics about old highways and old hobos and wanting to die.

"She's on Anti Records. That's Epitaph, y'know? Insane," your roommate--the one with the pointy wicked witch shoes and Chrissie Hynde hair--whispers.

You want to tell her to shut up and watch the show--it's not the kind of stuff you talk over. But she's your friend, and you're a nice person.

"Yeah, crazy," you mumble back, keeping your eyes on the stage. You remember that Jolie's from Texas and that she wrote her first song on miniature piano at six. That makes you smile--it feels inherently good and sweet and righteous.

"Hey, let's go do a bump in the car," your roommate breathes into your ear. "Patrick gave me some good shit."

"No thanks. I wanna watch this. This my favorite song." And for once in the longest time, you mean it.