Since becoming the lead Headcoatee in 1991 (thus joining the Billy Childish family of “More 1960s Than Thou” garage-rock artists) then going on to become an equally fabulous solo artist, Holly Golightly keeps proving she has her shit down. Not only has she gradually become more independent — she joined Thee Headcoatees having never sung a note, and the band’s music was mostly written by Childish — but Golightly’s also presented herself to be far too capable to be a cult favorite known primarily as “the other woman” on the White Stripes’ “It’s True That We Love One Another.”
Golightly’s maintained an affinity for retro-sounding, bluesy twang on her eleventh album, Slowly But Surely, but she’s also emphasized it much more than the Kinks- or Sonics-style rock that her Headcoatees were known for. That’s not to say she’s become boring since branching off in 1995; her music matures with age (she’s nearly 40), and it remains tasteful while Golightly displays a creative personality that so many female singer-songwriters lack today. It could be that she knows how to smoke, drink and toy with a guitar as well as any British man in a band, but I’d like to think it’s because she’s unwilling to limit herself to one genre.
Slowly But Surely has an even stronger sense of coolness to it than 2003’s Truly She is None Other. Golightly seems disconnected emotionally, even if her songs are about relationships and loneliness. Granted, the songs are about relationships in the generic-but-timeless “country standards of the ‘50s” sense, meaning that she may not have put a lot of herself behind them. But this distance adds to what makes her music her own. In a day when so many women are either trying to be PJ Harvey or putting photos of themselves half-naked on their album covers, Golightly dismisses the trends and looks to the past for influence.
The album lacks a bit of the spunky and youthful ‘60s attitude of Truly She is None Other, but it does offer a variety of styles, including country ballads (“On the Fire,” “Dear John”), a speck of bossa nova (“Through Sun and Wine”) and three covers, a feature on nearly every Golightly album. And although she may not have had a wild moment like those on Thee Headcoatees’s “Strychnine” or “Money” covers, her version of Billy Myles’s “My Love Is” could be her most natural-sounding cover yet.
While 2004 was mostly concerning itself with reviving the ‘80s, country music garnered a new fan base. Some of this may have had to do with the Loretta Lynn-Jack White collaboration last spring; if that’s the case, Golightly may find new American fans. And if America’s obsession with Appalachia is long gone? Well, then, Golightly may have to stick with her role as “the other woman,” but a cult favorite she’ll remain.