by Robert Preliasco
Photo Portraits by Casey Holder
With four songs (and a spoken word piece) Ali Holder’s new Huntress Moon EP is an achievement of sustained mood: plaintive, mysterious and lovely. From the beautiful bowed bass at the top of the first track, through 18 minutes of clear and sure vocals, bursts of distortion, and swooping melodies, it’s clear this is uncommonly good songwriting. Plus, it’s probably the best Stephen King concept album you’ve ever heard.
“[The songs are] all based off of the Dark Tower series,” Holder explained, “intertwined with things that have happened in my life.” She happened to be reading the books during a writer’s residency she attended and worked them into her songs as a way to add variety to more usual themes.
“I feel like a lot of my songs are based around love or turmoil and I had just come out of a four year relationship,” she said. “All of my songs were about having to deal with that process of losing someone, so I also wanted to tie [the EP] to something else I was interested in at the time to give it a little more depth, and I just happened to be reading those. It gave me a lot of inspiration to work beyond just the realms of my brain.”
Don’t expect plot summary or anything like Led Zeppelin’s J.R.R. Tolkien nerd-out, though. King readers will notice lyrical nods and the more obvious homage, a track called “Gemini Gunslinger,” but the lyrics are more about loss and recovery than King’s dark fantasy. “There’s a pace at which to let things die/But I know no surrender/See I didn’t know about the reap and sow/As the Earth passed behind the moon’s shadow,” Holder sings on closing track “Declaration of Love.”
Holder’s previous releases, like 2015’s From My Veins Will Fall, are easier to classify than this one. Listen to those classic freight train drums and it’s easy to declare it a country/folk album. Huntress Moon is a little harder to name: a little alt-country, a little folk.
“I’m on the outskirts of genres,” Holder said. “I feel like that’s the luxury of playing music these days: you don’t really have to categorize yourself.”
Huntress Moon was recorded in one day with Holder’s frequent collaborator Lindsey Verrill on bass (and engineered by Grant Johnson). The writing process, though, was longer, with Holder returning to her once-neglected habit of doing a bit of work every single day, rather than sitting and waiting for inspiration.
“[Songwriting is] like exercise or anything else,” she said, “you just have to make time for it. And I’ve learned that if I don’t take time to be creative, even if it’s for 15 minutes, it starts to wear on me. It’s like a never-ending to-do list that you don’t do because you become paralyzed by fear. If I do a little bit, even if it’s just minimal, it helps me survive as a person.”
Rob is a writer, drummer and aspiring guitarist clinging tenaciously to residency in East Austin.