“The night is filled with secrets and the wonder of their potential. ” – Holly Cole
To Holly Cole, the nighttime is central to her personal and artistic life. She is a self-declared night owl, perfectly at home in the time between dusk and dawn, a dear friend of the wee small hours. It’s a fact that now finds firm and poetic expression in the title and content of her eagerly awaited new album – NIGHT. As usual when it comes to the iconic Canadian songstress, it’s an album that features a stylistically diverse and emotionally stirring collection of songs. It stands as a love letter to the night and its power, a celebration of the hours where daylight’s chatter has disappeared and turned into peaceful moments of creative possibility, providing a chance to see the world with different eyes and to listen with different ears. An invitation to intimacy.
This is not the first time Holly Cole has decided to present a theme-oriented album to her audience. Romantically Helpless discussed the ins and outs of romantic love, Shade was all about situations of heat and summer, Baby, It’s Cold Outside talked about wintery feelings and the spirit of Christmas. Ever since Frank Sinatra presented thematically inclined albums to his fans in the 1950s, the idea of having an overriding theme embrace a collection of songs to give them enhanced meaning, has found practitioners and fans in both jazz and pop. Holly Cole is one of the artists not adverse to be inspired by concepts of mood and emotion, but she lets the songs lead the way. Consequently, the current topic was suggested by her repertoire yet again – not vice versa. So it’s the music that creates themes and while working it up in the studio, new discoveries can be made. In this case the distinct and mysterious allure of nocturnal situations.
Holly Cole is lauded in many different places, receiving praise as a pre-eminent interpretative singer working between the poles of jazz and pop. Her unique interpretations are applauded as being highly musical, intensely original, sophisticated, witty and sexy. In her hands, even familiar repertoire – from Hank Williams to Cole Porter – enjoys the potential to shine like never before. Holly never fails to present her music with style, humor and grace, sending it out on journeys straight to the listener’s heart. Her approach is sensual and intense, non-calculating and without any retro pretensions. All of this has been a continuous virtue in the singer’s illustrious career, a career that started some twenty years ago with her debut album Girl Talk. Many distinctive albums have followed since, accompanied by passionate live appearances internationally that have cemented her reputation as a major contemporary song stylist and a highly compelling, acclaimed performer.
Holly Cole’s artistic approach is born of silence. It’s the place she identifies as the origin for all things creative, supported by the inspiring aura of the night, protected from the information overload of modern life. To her, the night provides a stimulus of discovery and focus, offering peaceful retreat and contemplation. The seeds of this approach were planted in her earliest family memory: suffering from a croupy cough, she was put on her father’s shoulders, walking out into the night while looking for relief. Mesmerized by new sensations, the little girl was enveloped by the mystery of the night and its secrets, well protected and healed. To keep re-discovering the world with the “eyes of the night” has been a constant in her adult life. It’s a desire that keeps re-inventing itself in her artistry.
The ambition for musical discovery, the discoverability of music itself, is masterfully demonstrated on NIGHT. Supported by musicians the singer recognizes as soul mates and companions, the album presents a reunion of the original Holly Cole Trio, featuring pianist Aaron Davis and bassist David Piltch along with co-producer Greg Cohen. The line-up is completed by Davide DiRenzo (drums), Johnny Johnson (horns), Greg Leisz (lap steel), Kevin Breit (guitars), Cyro Baptista (percussion) and others.
As ever, songs from different corners of the musical spectrum meet on a Holly Cole album, ranging from a Bond theme by John Barry (“You Only Live Twice“) and a Mort Shuman classic (“Viva Las Vegas“) to Waits (“Walk Away“, “Whistling Past The Graveyard“), Brel (“If You Go Away”) and Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind“). Especially the final choice may come as a surprise, as Holly Cole has very rarely sung a tune written by Canada’s pre-eminent folk icon. But her distinct Canadian identity manifests itself in other places as well: a song by late Sixties/early Seventies Canadian folk-pop duo The Poppy Family has gently found its way into the repertoire (“I Thought Of You Again“). All of this is complimented by an American songwriter/folk classic from the Danny O’Keefe songbook (“Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues“), a Captain Beefheart tune (“Love Lies“), a timeless pop ballad (“I Only Have Eyes For You“) and – a Holly Cole original – “You’ve Got A Secret“.
There are musical secrets to be discovered on this album as well as many layers of meaning. To acknowledge them is a rewarding proposition for any Cole fan, as her one-of-a-kind methods of deconstruction/redefinition and composition continues to guarantee intense listening experiences. “Subtext is my best friend“, she remarks when asked personally, at the same time indicating that her personal creative journey continues to unfold.