Across her latest record, Uncomfortable Truths, singer-songwriter Ali Holder exposes every raw nerve of her life. "Speak 3" and "Speak 4" are among her most profound and intimate confessions. Each acoustically-wrought track scrawls out depictions of mental health and sexual assault, respectively. Together, the accompanying visuals complete a "Speak" series, created with Austin-based artist Seela Misra.
"Mental health is something that has a huge place in my life. As someone who battles both depression and anxiety, I am intimate with the incredible stigma of mental illness," Holder tells Wide Open Country. "Due to my privilege, I believe it's my responsibility to try and help provide support to others with mental illness. To bring awareness to mental health. To de-stigmatize it. To help others advocate for themselves. To help others feel less alone."
"I can be a voice for those who are too tired," sings Holder over haunting piano keys in "Speak 3." "I know I can't fix anyone / Lord knows I try."
"Speak 4" arrives 10 days after a leaked draft detailing the Supreme Court's opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that protected women's bodily autonomy under the Constitution. Holder originally wrote her mournful ballad "well before the pandemic," and its message rings even brighter now.
"I recently saw Margaret Atwood and Gloria Steinem speak. The reality that this battle is still being fought, that we are actually moving backwards, is crushing," offers Holder. "The reality that the United States in 'The Handmaid's Tale,' a work of fiction, is becoming more and more like the United States we see in our non-fiction lives every day. It is terrifying."
Over a stunning, visceral arrangement, Holder digs into her Texas upbringing and ""being culturally raised to stay small, to be polite, to make sure everyone else is comfortable. It's about being gaslit, when a man has put you in an inappropriate situation and they get called on it," she continues. "I have lived with sexual harassment my whole life. I have lived through sexual assault. However, I have had the privilege of therapy, the support of loved ones, and the luck to have made it out alive."
"I can't speak to boundaries, how important they've been / After years of taking so much shit from so many men / No, this is not my fault," she sighs, letting the crushing weight fall off her shoulders. "I didn't misunderstand you."
Uncomfortable Truths intertwines additional themes around chronic pain and domestic violence, as well as a Pueblo myth about La Loba (or The Wolf Woman). In all, it's an exquisite, emotional, and musically-cathartic record.
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