David Olney

Record Review

Phases and Stages

David Olney

The Wheel (Loudhouse) David Olney wasn't born in the South, but he got there as soon as he could and now carries a suitcase of lyrics and melodies stunningly realized on The Wheel's 15 tracks. Olney's writing is merciless on a song cycle that's at once infinite and closed. "Wheels" calls the album to order in 29 seconds of arresting intonation that pay off with "Big Cadillac." It would be easy enough to rattle off titles with traditional rock-critic commentary such as "if Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen teamed up, they would have written 'God Shaped Hole' and 'Revolution,'" but Olney is too slippery for that. Yes, "Voices on the Water" is rootsy gospel, "Boss Don't Shoot No Dice" (co-written with Janis Ian) smirks at the idea of the Man Upstairs as a gambler, and "Stonewall" is as tender a waltz as has been written in modern times, but still, The Wheel is not just another songwriter's album. Olney punctuates the song order with short, a cappella drones and incantations ranging from nine to 29 seconds ("Wheels," "Stars," "Precious Time, Precious Love," and "Now I Start") that pay off at the end in "Round," where the four cuts blend together. It's a musical round the likes of which are seldom heard outside medieval chants, but "Round," like every other song on The Wheel, lingers long in the heart's memory. His biography notes 11 previous albums, which begs the question: Where's David Olney been all these years? (David Olney plays Friday, May 2, at the Cactus Cafe and Saturday, May 3, at Jovita's.)

****

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