Ali Holder’s new record was written in the stars. In Preparation for Saturn’s Return is titled after an astrological event in which the planet Saturn completes one full orbit around the sun and returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth. This occurrence, which happens in 27-30 year intervals, is said to usher a person into the next stage of his or her life. Holder, who turns 27 this year and graduates from the University of Texas at Austin with an M.A. in Art Education, has composed a deeply personal collection of songs about her Saturn’s return cycle and her transition into adulthood.
Holder, a Texas native who began playing as a solo artist at age 16, sings with the controlled power of Brandi Carlile and the emotiveness of Patty Griffin. She counts a number of diverse performers—including Kris Kristofferson and Florence and The Machine—among her musical influences; her wide-ranging tastes have been reflected in her work, from her current Americana/folk output to Stuck in Red, the R&B album she released with The Raindoggs in 2011.
In Preparation for Saturn’s Return is a stunning solo debut, incorporating traces of blues and R&B into her folk-based sound. “I always have a rotating band, so I never seem to know what magical combination will be made out of joining together different people,” explains Holder, who plays ukulele on the record and guitar at her live shows. Here, she’s backed by a stellar collection of musicians, including Adam Ray, who contributes jazzy trumpet to album closer “Falling Up,” a song which gets its name from a Shel Silverstein work, and guitarist Daniel Thomas Phipps, who trades vocals with Holder on “I Saw a Wolf,” an eerie duet about the pursuit of love. Country-influenced tracks like the cheating ballad “Drinking Double” feature the crying steel guitar of Jeremy Menking, which serves as a gorgeous backdrop for Holder’s smoky alto.
The making of Saturn was an experience Holder describes as “summer camp for grownups.” Produced with several members of her band as well as engineer Andrew Ratcliffe, the album is not only an intimate remembrance of her past, but also a sign of her promising musical future.
As she prepares for her album release, graduate school graduation, and summer tours that will take her to both coasts, Ali Holder awaits her forthcoming Saturn’s return with a sense of optimism. “I’m ready to take all these songs that represent different pieces of my life with me into my next stage.”