Thursday, September 06, 2007

David Olney

David Olney is a singer-songwriter. But in his case, perhaps the term should be capitalized. And maybe underlined and printed in bold type as well. To wit, the late Townes Van Zandt, a songwriting icon himself, rated Olney as "one of the best songwriters I've ever heard," listing him as one of his favorite music writers alongside Mozart, Lightnin' Hopkins and Bob Dylan.
Olney's songs have been recorded by the two singers best known for showcasing the work of the finest contemporary songwriters - Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt - and have earned him the sort of rare praise that is generally reserved for the work of geniuses. For as Dave Ferman of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram raves, "David Olney is as good as it gets. Period."

For confirmation of such heady praise, one only need to turn to The Wheel, Olney's new release on Loud House Records and his 11th studio album. Like many Olney records, it has a thematic thread subtly weaving through the work, this time one of circularity and motion, as he explores a broad palette of modes, moods and characters that crackle with the immediacy and emotional depth of reality transformed into music. With a musical and lyrical touch that ranges from the shattering surprise of a sucker punch to the piquant delicacy of a kiss, Olney forges the lowdown with high art within the craft of the popular song, creating virtual literature you can hum along with. Both on his own and in collaboration with folk and pop legend Janis Ian, Oscar nominee Gwil Owen and respected literary figure Bland Simpson, David Olney proves the transformational power of the well-written song.

The Wheel brims with the literate vividness that has inspired critics to compare Olney alternately to an author, painter, playwright and screenwriter. "His songs are rich with complex characters, unpredictable plot twists, and grand tragedies; they dramatize the brutality of evil and the quiet dignity of goodness," wrote Michael McCall in the Nashville Scene. Similarly, Jim Ridley noted in New Country how "David Olney has a distinctly American voice. There's a swagger, a generosity and a wise-guy wit in his writing that we associate with our national character, an appreciation for the underdog and the outlaw."

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