In a perfect world, everyone would know the name Jolie Holland and she'd have a following as large as contemporaries Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris.

In a perfect world, everyone would know the name Jolie Holland and she'd have a following as large as contemporaries Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris. But much like her biggest fan Tom Waits, she may be destined for a career of critical acclaim while remaining in the alt-country fringes.

Regardless, "Springtime Can Kill You" is Holland's third official release and is a gorgeous collection of sleepy, downtrodden ballads that have a rather lonely, back bar on a dirt road in Texas feel to them. Holland's voice is the real draw; at times she hooks you in with a sultry, bluesy feel, at others it's whimsical and playful, despite echoing themes of melancholy throughout.

Almost every song features a full acoustic lineup with upright bass and pedal steel guitar, but there's nothing "big" about any of the cuts here. If anything, it's a testament to the idea that "less is more" and in this case, it's much more. The heartache is a bit tough to digest in large doses, but Holland is never less than charming, and "Springtime" could very well be the singer/songwriter album against which all others are measured this year. -- Michael D. Ayers

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