In 2014 black southern outsider artist Lonnie Holley told the New York Times Magazine, “We can make art where we have to. Dr. King, if you remember, wrote a sermon on a piece of toilet paper.” His one-bedroom Atlanta apartment was stuffed with objects he collected for his art: Times contributor Mark Binelli mentioned “DVD cases, egg cartons, torn bedsheets, yellow police ‘Do Not Cross’ tape.” Holley, now 66, didn’t begin making visual art till he was 29. Not long after that he also started making music—a 2012 Fader post said he’d been doing it for 30 years. Holley’s engaging, stylistically slippery sound is too idiosyncratic to fit comfortably into any genre, but as far as I’m concerned that means it partakes in the spirit of antifolk.
In a 2013 NPR piece, Holley explained that he played for years in the privacy of his home, toying with a Casio keyboard, without ever giving a public performance. He said this was “like in preparation to be shared. Practice to make perfect.” He released his first commercial album, Just Before Music, through Atlanta label Dust-to-Digital in 2012. It begins with the gentle “Looking for All (All Rendered Truth),” where sparse, twinkling keys leave a lot of room for Holley’s soulful singing to vibrate—his slurred, trembling vocals are the centerpiece of the song.