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Mexico City - Jolie Holland

One of the founding members of the Be Good Tanyas was Jolie Holland, a Texan who wound up in Vancouver (see previous 6 posts) via San Francisco where she returned to cut her first album in 2003 having left the Tanyas even before the release of their first record two years earlier.

Here's the opening track of her 2008 LP "The Living and the Dead" entitled "Mexico City" containing within it the title and heart of the album. Like many of her songs Mexico City is dark and uplifting in the same breath, like Mexico City itself. Her distinct vocal, almost Cajun in its raw corruption of Americana, mesmerises the brain and squeezes the heart by turns.

American literature of the first half of the twentieth century was obsessed by the failure of the American dream, the notion that the journey ever west floundered on the Pacific shores California, as in Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Steinbeck, Chandler and the underrated Nathaniel West, and encompassed the ephemeral hopes and myths of Hollywood. Since then the failed dream has more frequently become associated with Mexico, the Southern border representing the entry point to artistic freedom, illicit marriages, blow -out weekends of sex, drugs and alcohol, as well a the land of danger and adventure, as exemplified by the writings of the Beats and later of Cormac McCarthy. Mexico is also poorer and therefore cheaper than the US or Canada so you get more for your dollar. It wins as a kind of modern, disposable, supermarket version of the American dream, somewhere you're escaping to or escaping from, somewhere you visit, not a place you stay.

The escape to romance and freedom of excess that Mexico offers is also the reason for its frequent recurrence in rock music. After all, how many songs are there that talk of nipping over the border to Canada to get blasted and have a good time?

Holland takes the imagery of the Mexican lost weekend, the day of the dead, the booze, the religion, the drugs, the roadtrip, the love, the sex, and mixes them up in a rousing, irresistible concoction.

".......I'm just back from Mexico city

I came back north to Texas to rest my weary head;

my true love is fresh from the battlefield,

sewing up the dying and carting off the dead;

my baby don't stand no fighting amongst the living or the dead."

No idea what she means, but it's great and I love it.


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