Born in Birmingham, AL as the seventh of 27 children, Lonnie Holley has had the sort of life that should inspire a biopic – from an early age, Holley worked all kinds off odd jobs: picking up trash at a drive-in movie theatre, washing dishes, and cooking. He lived in a whiskey house, on the state fairgrounds, and in a number of foster homes. And as you can imagine, his life was often chaotic and uncertain, and he was never afforded anything that resembled a “normal” childhood.
Since 1979, Holley has dedicated his life to improvised art and in a number of disciplines – sculpture, painting, photography, performance art, and music. As a musician, his music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and morph and evolve with every event, concert, and recording creating the sense that what you’re hearing at that particular time is a once in a lifetime moment.
Back in November 2006, Holley had joined a recording project in Gee’s Bend, AL (a town that I hadn’t heard of until I got some of the press notes for this single). A recording studio was set up inside Friendship Baptist Church as the recording team of Matt Arnett, Amos Harvey and Brando Marius set out to record the region’s rapidly disappearing acappella hymns and spirituals. After they were done with the day sessions, they would work with Holley recording material way into the night. Holly managed to record three complete songs and parts of two others during this time, and it was the first time he was recording material using state of the art recording equipment.
During the recording sessions Holley played a number of instruments including keyboard and synthesizers, and even the pastor’s chair. The experimentation that came about during these sessions would set the groundwork for the material on his official full-length debut, Just Before Music as well as his follow-up Keeping a Record of It.
The latest single from Holley’s sophomore effort “Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants” and it’s a gorgeous song that feels much like a half-remembered dream with it’s own surreal yet plausible logic. And although the song is ethereal to the point of floating away, there’s a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity to the song that’s both playful and charming.
Throughout September and October, you can catch Holley in concert at some of the following cities: Portland, OR; Raleigh, NC; Philadelphia, PA; Webster Hall on October 6th; Ithaca, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; and more.