VIDEO: “Six Space Shuttles and 144,00 Elephants” (Dir. by Robert Beatty) –
STREAM: “From The Other Side of the Pulpit” (feat. Bradford Cox & Cole Alexander) –
Lonnie Bradley Holley was born on February 10, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama, the seventh of twenty-seven children. From the age of 5, Holley worked various 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 several foster homes. His early life was chaotic and Holley was never afforded the pleasure of a real childhood.
Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound.
Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events.
Holley did not start making and performing music in a studio nor does his creative process mirror that of the typical musician. His music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and morph and evolve with every event, concert, and recording. In Holley’s original art environment, he would construct and deconstruct his visual works, re-purposing their elements for new pieces. This often led to the transfer of individual narratives into the new work creating a cumulative composite image that has depth and purpose beyond its original singular meaning. The layers of sound in Holley’s music, likewise, are the result of decades of evolving experimentation.
The Making of Keeping A Record Of It
In November of 2006, Lonnie Holley joined a recording project in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Matt Arnett rented an old church, hired an engineer, and set up a recording studio inside Friendship Baptist Church. During the day Matt, Amos Harvey, and Brando Marius (the engineer) worked to record the rapidly disappearing acappella hymns and spirituals found in this tiny Alabama hamlet. As the recording day would come to a close, an evening recording session with Lonnie Holley would begin. These were the first songs Holley would ever record using state of the art equipment. Prior to this session, the only recordings of Holley’s music were homemade recordings. Working late into the night (over the course of almost a week), Holley recorded three complete tracks and parts of at least two others (which he has yet to return to).
During the recordings in Gee’s Bend, Holley played a variety of instruments, from keyboard and synthesizer to the pastor’s chair. It was a great time of experimentation for Holley and set the groundwork for the recordings that would come years later, many of which can be found on Just Before Music, Holley’s debut record with Dust-to-Digital, as well as his follow-up Keeping a Record of It.
Tracks 1 and 5 on Keeping a Record of It come from the 2006 recording sessions in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. The remaining tracks were recorded between 2010-2012 at Griffin Mastering Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. On March 12, 2011, Lonnie was joined in the studio by two of Atlanta’s most noted rock musicians – Cole Alexander from the Black Lips and Bradford Cox from Deerhunter. What ensued on that day set the tone for this album. The three musicians improvised and created several songs, two of which are included on Keeping a Record of It. It was a beautiful spring day in Atlanta, and Bradford insisted on recording as much music outdoors as possible. So the drums were set up outside, and during the improvisational takes Cole and Lonnie took to using some of the tools outside the studio as percussive devices.
Lonnie’s artist statement about the record:
“Where does a bird go in the midst of a storm? I ask that because of my life and how I had to live – what I went through before being an artist. I believe I was chosen to be an artist because I can take my life and tell somebody else about it. But where does a bird go in the midst of a storm? What happened to my mind during the time I was unconscious for three and a half months as a child?
I remember when we used to go to church they had testimony time — time to testify, time to tell the congregation what you had been through. You all are the congregation to me, y’all is the church. My whole life is my testimony, as are the works you’ve seen and heard and the works I’m continuing to do because I can’t stop.
I can’t stop, I can’t cut my mind off. I can’t walk away from what I do without worrying about it. I appreciate my talent and my skill. Some things I look back on make me get kind of moody and I cry a little bit and it makes me sad all over again. But I make art and I made this record because I think it’s important. It’s important for me to keep a record of my life.”
09/04 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom – Music Fest North West ^
09/07 Raleigh, NC – Stephenson Amphitheatre – Hopscotch Festival (Free afternoon show)
09/07 Raleigh, NC – Longview Center – Hopscotch Festival
10/03 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church *
10/04 Providence, RI – Columbus Theater *
10/05 Boston, MA – The Sinclair *
10/06 New York, NY – Webster Hall *
10/08 Ithaca, NY – The Haunt *
10/09 Pittsburgh, PA – Carnegie Lecture Hall (Chamber Music Hall) *
10/10 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom *
10/11 Detroit, MI – Trinosophes *
10/17 & 10/18 Columbus, OH – Wexner Center
10/19 Chicago, IL – Constellation
10/20 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop
10/21 Nashville, TN – The Stone Fox
1. Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants
2. The Start of a River’s Run (One Drop)
3. Mind On
4, Sun & Water (featuring Lillian Blades)
5. Making a Joyful Noise (featuring quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama)
6. From the Other Side of the Pulpit (featuring Bradford Cox and Cole Alexander)
7. Keeping a Record of It (featuring Bradford Cox and Cole Alexander)