Listen Up: Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
David Olney

One Tough Town (Red Parlor Records)

By Tom Geddie

On One Tough Town, David Olney proves, once again, that he’s one of our finest songwriters, capable of offering a variety of styles and sounds within the context of his metaphor-filled songs about the human condition. A steady, restless beat and a harmonica played through a Wurlitzer piano speaker are the framework for the blues-oriented “Whistle Blows,” about the sadness in a passion. On the rockabilly “Sweet Poison,” he sings, “Papa told Mama, ‘Everybody knows, man don’t live by dinner alone / He needs sweet poison / Sweet poison, sweet poison.’ ” “Little Mustang” is a slow-burning rock song about his untamed woman. On “See How the Mighty Have Fallen,” Saul and David from the Old Testament battle for power in the middle of a blues-rock beat. Amid all of the serious songs, Olney has fun with four funky, Dixieland-style numbers, including “Oh, Yeah (Dead Man’s Shoes),” about walkin’ fine in a “new” pair of shoes, findin’ a ride with the keys inside, and other adventures; and “Sweet Potato,” where he sings, “I’m just crazy ‘bout my sweet potato / She’s round, she’s warm, she’s sweet as she can be / Lovely skin, lovely eyes / Add a little butter and my, oh, my.” The 13 storyteller songs include five co-written by John Hadley. Olney also covers Townes Van Zandt’s creepy “Snake Song,” with acoustic guitar and extended, almost psychedelic electric guitar, and Rudy van Dam’s “No Lies,” sounding a little like Van Zandt on both songs. (Before he “graduated,” Van Zandt once said that his four favorite music writers were Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and David Olney.) With his confident, experienced, often gritty vocals and playing, Olney is equally at home in the words and the music.


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