Oh Me Oh My is both elegant and ferocious. It is stirring in one moment and a balm the next. It details histories both global and personal. Lonnie Holley’s harrowing youth and young manhood in the Jim Crow South are well-told at this point - his sale into a different home as a child for just a bottle of whiskey; his abuse at the infamous Mount Meigs correctional facility for boys; the destruction of his art environment by the Birmingham airport expansion. But Holley’s music is less a performance of pain endured and more a display of perseverance, of relentless hope. Intricately and lovingly produced by LA’s Jacknife Lee (The Cure, REM, Modest Mouse), there is both kinetic, shortwave funk that call to mind Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and the deep space satellite sounds of Eno’s ambient works. But it’s a tremendous achievement in sonics all its own.
It’s also an achievement in the refinement of Holley’s impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. On the title track which deals with mutual human understanding”, Holley is able to make a profound point as ever in far fewer phrases: “The deeper we go, the more chances there are, for us to understand the oh-me’s and understand the oh-my’s.” Illustrious collaborators like Michael Stipe, Sharon Van Etten, Moor Mother and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver serve as not only as choirs of angels and co-pilots to give Lonnie’s message flight but as proof of Lonnie Holley as a galvanizing, iconoclastic force across the music community.