Holly Golightly is a back-seat driver. The British singer-songwriter is en route to an Atlanta show when she breaks from a phone interview to command the driver to please watch the road. It’s because she used to be a truck driver, she says. That’s Holly Golightly: the truck-driving blues-rock singer.
Not to be confused with the capricious Truman Capote character whose name she was given at birth, this is the Golightly who confesses to loving the White Stripes’ Jack White like a little brother on that band’s celebrated CD, “Elephant.”
It’s easy to imagine this Golightly happily cruising along with only her dog and her music for company. Such fierce independence infuses her music, which has that classic sound birthed from American blues and raised on British invasion rock.
Golightly’s 11th full-length album, “Truly She Is None Other” is full of similarly tough broads, the kind who drink and don’t tolerate back talk. She recounts tales of heartache over shimmering percussion and cool, coaxing gyrations of guitar. The sound is like that of Golightly’s past work, but as she has been perfecting her music for almost a decade, the songs reflect an ever-increasing sophistication and poise. “I’m not trying to break any new ground in terms of production or style or direction,” she said during a phone conversation from Texas. “I do what I do.”
She brings the same confidence to the covers she tackles on her new album, including numbers by the Kinks and a solo Ray Davies and the delicate blues ballad “Black Night,” which was written by Jessie Mae Robinson but never recorded by a female singer. While her cover songs help to define her retro sound, Golightly chooses them for varied reasons.
“It could be that I think it’s a monumental piece of music, or that I like a line in the song,” she said.
Golightly first began hammering out her sound as a founding member of the all-girl band Thee Headcoatees. This offshoot of Billy Childish’s garage-rock classicists, Thee Headcoats performed songs penned by Childish that blended girl-group vocals and three-chord guitar.
Golightly acknowledges Childish as an influence. “I’ve spent most of my adult life with him,” she said. “How could I not be influenced by someone I’ve spent so much time with? But I think I do something different from him.”
Since going solo in 1995, Golightly has added classic blues and folk to the gritty sound she picked up from Childish. But perhaps his biggest influence on her has been his model of taking an incredibly prolific approach to music. In addition to her full-length records, Golightly has released more than a dozen singles, collaborated with Childish on 1999’s “In Blood,” and recorded songs with American retro rockers the Greenhornes, whose members have also joined Golightly in the studio and on the road.
More high profile was her guest spot on the playfully affectionate song “It’s True That We Love One Another,” on the White Stripes’ “Elephant.” While the appearance undoubtedly got her name out to more people, Golightly isn’t sure that the greater exposure from the song will translate into sales for her own albums.
“I did it because they asked me and they’re mates,” she said. “The song is very true.”
The feeling is clearly mutual, as Jack White wrote affectionate liner notes for Golightly’s new album, painting a picture of how much he enjoys having her stop by to sing on his front porch. Describing her as a “little angel,” he wrote, “She seems not to need all six strings, she don’t need a hundred watts, she don’t want twenty four hours, she must want it black and white.”
It was her ability to fill her music with feeling, as well as her singing, that has always impressed guitarist Steve Turner of Mudhoney, whose band used to play shows with Thee Headcoatees and had Golightly join them onstage in London several times for Mudhoney’s song “Good Enough,” which she covered.
“No one can sing a bitter song like Holly,” Turner said.
“And she’s hot. She’s the full package.”
Yes, that’s our truck-driving chanteuse — who pens songs to philandering heartbreakers with titles like “You Have Yet to Win” and sums up her catalog with one simple statement: “They sound like me,” she said.