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Soul - Released September 21, 2018 | Jagjaguwar

Renowned throughout the art world for his found-object sculptures, which he began crafting in 1979, Lonnie Holley started his musical career in 2012, when Dust-to-Digital released his phenomenal debut album Just Before Music. The Alabama-born artist had been improvising songs using a Casio keyboard in his home for decades, but he'd never considered presenting his music to the general public until manager Matt Arnett began organizing professional recordings in 2006. Quite simply, Holley's music is impossible to categorize. His rich, weathered voice might bring to mind Gil Scott-Heron, and his cosmic energy can be comparable to Laraaji or Sun Ra, but his sound is entirely his own. Instead of writing songs, he chooses a subject and the words and music flow out of him, varying from a slow trickle to an excited, babbling rush. His lyrics reflect on topics such as human consciousness, space, and time, and they span the spectrum of emotions from ecstatic joy to utter rage and horror at the injustice of society. MITH is Holley's third album and his most fully produced recording by far. His multi-tracked vocals project several thoughts floating around his brain at once, and lush layers of horns, keyboards, and jazzy drums elevate the music's atmospheric qualities. Laraaji himself plays piano on a few songs, and other contributors include saxophonist Sam Gendel and the late Richard Swift, who plays drums on one song. Holley sounds more emotionally charged here than on his first two albums, with several songs directly reacting to the fear and paranoia following the 2016 presidential election. On the opening track, he sings "I'm a suspect in America, but I will end up being a dust speck in Mother Universe." On the album's turbulent centerpiece, he cries "I snuck off the slave ship just to sneak on another." And then there's the sobering "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America," a plea to end the national re-occurring nightmare. Elsewhere, "Copying the Rock" and "There Was Always Water" voice concerns about humanity's neglect of environmental issues. After all of this heaviness, the album concludes with the rousing, gospel-infused "Sometimes I Wanna Dance," a celebration of the pure joy of letting one's body be free. MITH is the most powerful album yet from a truly inspirational artist who deserves to be acknowledged as a national treasure. ~ Paul Simpson