Most likely, many White Stripes fans who ran out and bought Holly Golightly's latest record after hearing her guest vocals on the Stripes' Elephant were disappointed. Instead of encountering raucous, caterwauling blues extrapolations, Truly She Is None Other instead yields slow, simmering ballads sung with malice and restraint. The punk savagery and overt Led Zep bombast of the Stripes? The British Grande Dame of Garage has no time for such shenanigans.
What Ms. Golightly does have time for is love, which seems to be treating her pretty badly these days. The onetime SF resident says most of the songs on Truly were written about one guy she's been trying to break up with for five years. Such suffering has added complexity to her songwriting. Whereas her past efforts often got mired in tough-girl mandates, Golightly now moves from the ardent longing of "Without You Here" to the stark misery of "Sent" to grudging admission of wrongdoing in "It's All Me."
The former focal point of all-female Brit punk crew Thee Headcoatees still isn't the kind of songwriter who uses showy phrases to get her points across. But while a couplet such as "Don't forget I let you in/And now I let you out again" may not win her any awards, her lyrics, taken together, add up to a gentle ferocity.
Golightly's music is equally engaging in a subtle fashion. The minimalist blues licks, soft shuffling rhythms, and twanging leads might seem dated in someone else's hands, but here they sound brand-new, emitting from a well-used garage with spanking new ventilation. So while Truly She Is None Other may not set the hoi polloi on fire like the White Stripes' histrionic rock, there's plenty to recommend. After all, not everyone likes drinking Jack Daniel's from the bottle; sometimes a good sipping whiskey hits the spot.
Holly Golightly plays the Make-Out Room in SF Tuesday night. (415) 647-2888.
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