In what just may be the collaboration of 2007, legendary musician, songwriter and producer Booker T. Jones has joined forces with Texas-born singer/performer and Shortlist nominee Jolie Holland for a gorgeous rendering of the Louis Armstrong classic, “What A Wonderful World.” Set for release as a digital single via Anti- on November 6th, the uplifting and charming Jones/Holland collaboration celebrates the song’s 40th anniversary by paying tribute to the Bob Thiele and George David Weiss-penned classic in its own distinctive and beautiful way.
First released in the fall of 1967 as an antidote to the increasingly racially and politically-charged climate in the U.S. at the time, Jones and Holland’s viable new version of the song feels as apropos today as the original did four decades ago.
“With the world in its present state, I think the track and the recording of the song is timely,” Booker T. Jones says. “I hoped it would be something of a healing or a balm for the world right now because conditions are so bleak in so many places and areas. I’m hoping it’ll be a timely, refreshing uplift for music listeners. I’m hoping it’s going to be something to pick people up and to reaffirm hope and beauty – to remind them that there is beauty in the world. We hear so much about what’s wrong and no one is really saying that the world is a beautiful place. It still is a beautiful wonderful place.”
To which Jolie Holland adds, “I think we were all surprised to learn that we are releasing our version of this song on its fortieth anniversary. It was released in the fall of 1967, and here again it comes out in the fall of 2007. Now that we've recorded it, I hear it as it was originally imagined – as a counter-point to the heaviness of the political songs of the civil rights movement. It was meant to remind us, that despite everything, the world is still beautiful. What is more centering than real beauty?”
The updated take on “What A Wonderful World” – which finds Holland’s angelic voice meshing ideally with the iconic Booker T.’s soulful organ and piano – will also boast a second collaboration as a B-side. With its moody vibe, the blues traditional “It’s A Blessing,” was personally chosen by Jolie.
The unique pairing of two artists from completely different musical worlds left both awestruck. “Jolie was known to a lot of people for a long time, but for me she’s a refreshing new discovery,” Jones enthuses.” Her voice sounds new and old at the same time. I made a new friend and it’s a wonderful new discovery for me. Recording with her was a wonderful experience for me and I’m looking forward to doing more with her if possible. Jolie carries beauty and it’s just around her all the time.”
“It is an enormous honor to work with the elegant Mr. Booker T. Jones,” Holland adds. “It’s hard to communicate what it was like – it kind of reminds me of how hard it is to talk about falling in love. You know, when you've got a crush, you just want to go on and on and have a good gossip with your friends about the crush. But then when you really fall in love, you have very little to say, because the experience is too profound for words. So I just have to say, it is such a deep honor to be able to count Booker among my friends. I'm so glad we had a chance to create something to share with the world, and I'm thrilled to consider what we can do in the future.”
Jones founded Booker T. & the MGs in 1962. While still in high school, he wrote the group’s enduring instrumental, “Green Onions.” In addition to his enduring multi-instrumentalist role fronting the MGs, his esteemed career includes tenure throughout the 1960s as a session musician and songwriter for the famous Stax Records label. Exiting Stax in the 1970s, Jones performed as a solo artist while developing a sturdy reputation as a producer for the likes of Rita Coolidge, Bill Withers and Willie Nelson. He has also lent his trademark keyboard playing to recordings by everyone from Stephen Stills and Ray Charles to Neil Young and Natalie Merchant. Jones still plays with Booker T. & the MGs and his own Booker T. Jones Band. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement earlier this year.
Critically lauded Anti- recording artist Jolie Holland is one of the founding members of The Be Good Tanyas, but has come into her own as a solo performer, releasing three discs (2003’s Catalpa, 2004’s Escondida and 2006’s Springtime Can Kill You for the acclaimed label. Labelmates Tom Waits and Sage Francis are enormous Holland supporters of her warm, heartfelt approach to blues and folk styles. Waits nominated Catalpa for the Shortlist music prize while Francis called Escondida his “most listened to album of 2005.” On Francis’ 2007 disc Human The Death Dance, Holland performed on two tracks. She is currently working on material for a forthcoming studio album, expected in 2008.