Some people call the eyes a window to the soul. But I don’t subscribe to that bullshit, because the eyes can be trained to deceive. The voice, however, can only be trained to become more refined — getting rid of all the natural grain and grit that makes it inherently “truthful.” Lonnie Holley’s voice, and the words that it sings, cannot be faked. It cannot be created in some LA studio. It cannot be invented via auto-tune. It cannot be fed into a series of mixers and vacuum tubes to create what you’ll hear below.
It holds his story — the seventh of 27 children, kidnapped, and sold to a couple running a whiskey-house in Alabama by the time he was four. The story didn’t get any easier. Fending for his food one night, he bit a man trying to rob him of his dinner, who, in turn, jabbed him in the head with a red-hot fire poker. He tried to escape the confines of his current situation by stealing a car when he was 11, but hit a telephone pole and was carted off to a boys school for blacks. Where, after trying to escape there as well, he was almost beaten to death.
And so it goes — but luckily for him, and us, he found a release and redemption in art, both physical and musical. Listen to his wonderful mix of clinking keyboard (think quiet Sigur Ros) and soul below. We will be covering his show at the 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival, which is going down this weekend in Raleigh, NC.