Hometown: Nashville, TN
Label: Deadbeet Records, Red Parlor Records
Management: Mary Sack Management, Mary Sack
Sounds Like: Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle
David Olney recalls a childhood night in his native Rhode Island, helping his Little League team raise money for the Jimmy Fund at a drive-in theater. The movie, a western, unfolds from several contrasting points of view. “All these conflicting stories were acted out. You'd see it from different angles, and that stayed in the back of my mind.”
On his new mini-album “Robbery & Murder,” Olney takes a similarly multi-faceted look at two love affairs. Among those telling us their side of the story is a gold diamond ring, but that's nothing unusual for Olney. He is, after all, the one who gave voice to the iceberg's rapacious lust in the chilling “Titanic.”
While the twin threads of “Robbery & Murder” alternate and interweave around a common theme the songwriter calls “hardcore romantic negotiation,” their differences could not be more stark. The Betty & Dupree tunes are rollicking odes to marital bliss -- at a price -- while the Delia songs inhabit the dark regions of cowardice, betrayal and regret.
“Robbery & Murder” (October 30, 2012 release on Deadbeet Records) completes the set of three thematic mini-albums collectively called “Body of Evidence.” Available singly or as a set, the collection also includes the smoky, secretive “Film Noir” and Olney's kaleidoscopic take on the Easter story, “The Stone.”
Olney doesn't defy categorization so much as he rises above it. There is simply no one else like him. Singer/Songwriter? By definition. And Picasso was a painter. But as one reviewer said, “Olney stands out like a jalapeño in a bowl of vanilla pudding.” Americana artist? Sure. He draws from the many deep roots of American music, but what he grows from those roots is unmistakably unique.
Over the course of four decades and 25 critically acclaimed albums, Olney's unforgettable songs and powerful performances have attracted a devoted following the world over. Such luminaries as Emmylou Harris, Del McCoury and Linda Ronstadt have recorded his songs, and Townes Van Zandt famously listed him among his four favorites -- along with Dylan, Mozart and Lightnin' Hopkins.
Olney's musical path brought him to Nashville in 1973, that city's equivalent to Paris in the 1890s. He fell in with a creative cabal (Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, et al.) whose new attitudes and creative chance-taking broadened and deepened the scope of Music City songwriting.
In the early 1980s Olney formed a roots rock band, the X-Rays, resulting in a trail of legendary live shows, two well-received albums, and an appearance on Austin City Limits. Then in 1986 came his first solo album, the stunning “Eye of the Storm” (Philo/Rounder), where the singer says he found his voice as a songwriter.
In performance, Olney is a revelation. The shows are seamless and riveting, never more so than in the company of chameleonic multi-instrumentalist Sergio Webb. Since 2007, Webb has added his sonic sorcery to Olney's songs, enriching and embellishing them with a near-brotherly empathy.
Music's not the only muse to wink at Olney. His forceful recitations of classic poetry dot the YouTube landscape; his weekly webcast “You Never Know” gives a personal, conversational glimpse behind the curtain to both the songs and the songwriter; and his short story “A Sign from God” is a highlight of the 2009 songwriters' anthology Amplified.
But always the mistress is music. “That's the story I'm sticking to,” says Olney. “That was the way I wanted to spend my life -- doing music. And that’s what I’ve done.”
And so the distinct and very different love stories of “Robbery & Murder” complete the project called “Body of Evidence,” and complete it with typical intelligence, fire and finesse. But the David Olney story goes on, the evidence accumulates and the case is a long way from closed.
# # #
“Olney is a talented musical enigma, and he is unquestionably a founding father of Americana music.”
Skip Anderson - The Nashville Scene (COVER Story)
“A sturdy blend of elegant ballads, turgid deliberation and additional elements of Blues, Roots and even a bit of Vaudeville... An extraordinary hybrid of sounds and styles.”
Lee Zimmerman - Blurt!
“…the Nashville troubadour has also been MAKING GRIPPING MUSIC FOR A LONG TIME. When the Deal Goes Down (Deadbeet ***1/2) is as fine a showcase as you'll find for his storytelling prowess and musical range. Olney ROCKS WITH BLISTERING INTENSITY … but he also MESMERIZES”
Nick Cristiano - The Philadelphia Inquirer
“...There's a LIVED-IN AUTHENTICITY to his voice that is beyond so many of the young pretenders around these days...HE IS THE REAL DEAL.”
Kerry Doole - Exclaim Magazine (Toronto, Canada)
“While this is certainly a boomer friendly folk/rock, singer/songwriter set,
the young ‘uns might want to find out what’s going on with this grandpa
pictured on the cover talking to a skull. Hot stuff for a vet that sounds
like he’s just hitting his stride.”
Midwest Review (Chicago, IL)
“Here's what's important: When the Deal Goes Down SETS THE BAR for this year in rooted songwriting. Be warned, all would-be competitors: it's a dauntingly high one... manifest SMARTNESS and SOPHISTICATION place [his songs] in a category of their own, taking worn themes and applying a new shine to them. …[he] has the mature artist's ability to avoid missteps and to say things that will STICK IN YOUR HEAD and possibly even MAKE YOU WISER.”
Jerome Clark - Rambles.net
“ENDLESSLY CREATIVE SONGS, straight from the source. It doesn’t get much better than that, and that’s just what you get with David Olney’s new album, ‘When the Deal Goes Down.’ ...There’s an AN AUTHENTICITY TO HIS VOICE that is unmatched.”
Greg Victor - Parcbench.com
“WELL-CRAFTED and THOUGHTFUL MUSIC.”
David Bowling - Cashbox Magazine
“20 Best Songs of July - 'Big Blue Hole' from 'When The Deal Goes Down - A former running bud of Townes van Zandt, Olney plays and sings like he'll cut you if you don't get it. His new album, When the Deal Goes Down, has more edge than a straight razor and cuts just as deep. If you're into music for good news, fairy tales, cotton candy or dance beats, move on. Your life is in danger here.”
William Michael Smith - Houston Press
“Exclusive Video Premiere & story behind the video & song for "Sad Saturday Night" from David Olney's "When The Deal Goes Down" CD”
“He's got more soul than everybody I can imagine. He embodies what Americana is.”
Billy Block - Billy Block, interviewed in The Nashville Scene
“David Olney is to American songwriting, as John the Baptist is to the Gospels; Sergio Webb is to Olney as Lee Marvin is to '60s Westerns.”
Jon Dee Graham
"Whenever I think I’m some genius songwriter, I just need to look across the street at David Olney’s house. There’s a genius songwriter.”
Will Kimbrough - The Oxford American (article by Tommy Womack)
“Throughout a prolific career that dates back to the early 1970s, [Olney's] highly literate country, blues and roots-rock songs almost ALWAYS have had A WAY of CAPTURING BOTH the DARK and JOYFUL SIDES of HUMAN EMOTION without resorting to clichés.”
Dan Armonaitis - Herald-Journal/GoUpstate.com
“His tough gutteral singing, elemental guitar work and classic songwriting have earned him some well-deserved recognition as a founding father of Americana music.”
James Wesley Nichols - WordKraft
“Biting wit and FULL-THROTTLE PERFORMANCE PASSION is closer in spirit to Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt, Dylan or Neil Young”
The Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
“David broadcasts every Tuesday on his website with his “You Never Know” video shorts – featuring the story behind a song”
“Along with Tom Russell and James McMurtry, David Olney is one of the greatest American story tellers working today.”
"David Olney doesn't tour over here with a band. He doesn't have to. Between his own sturdy rhythm-and-riffs guitar playing and his trusty sidekick, Mark 'Sergio' Webb's extraordinary range of accompaniments, Nashville-based OLNEY GIVES A PERFORMANCE THAT BORDERS AT TIMES ON THE ORCHESTRAL....A show PACKED WITH INCIDENT, amusement, contrast and fine, fine songsmithery."
The Herald (Scotland) - May 2010
"The David Olney & Sergio Webb show defies description. It was highly UNUSUAL, EXCITING, ENGROSSING and OVER TOO SOON."
“Brilliant writer, but he changes into this other person on stage that leaves you stunned, mesmerized and always wanting more”
Rex (Wrecks) Bell
““Olney and his main co-writer, John Hadley, have felt-tipped a subtle new entry into the Great American/Americana Songbook.”
Jon Sobel - Blogcritics
““This was a ROOTS/AMERICANA DREAM TEAM that spoiled us rotten..RIVETING and UNFORGETTABLE.””
"Previously, with his gruff voice and GUTBUCKET ARRANGEMENTS, Olney has recalled the later Tom Waits...although one also should mention Leon Redbone as a model. In his songwriting, OLNEY CONTINUES TO DELIGHT in imaginative explorations of historical and invented characters and situations."
“...The lovely ‘Covington Girl’, which sounds like a newly-minted Americana classic. Punchy horns punctuate a few of the songs, and Olney enlivens the tracks with some engaging vocal quirks...”
"Few are capable of spinning such colorful and multi-layered yarns with so little excess fat. On this fine new release, Olney spans the gamut from OBSTREPEROUS GLEE to NAKED TERROR."
American Songwriter Magazine
“In the tradition of Johnny Cash and Tom Waits, Olney has become A PIONEER OF THE AMERICANA MUSIC SCENE”
Tony Dushane - The San Francisco Chronicle
"On top of an amazing sound, Olney's incredible TV Evangelist-Beat Poet style story telling in the intro to most songs is SO THEATRICAL, you just can't help but be absorbed by his incredible imagination. HE IS A MAN WITH A GIFT. If you get the chance, YOU MUST SEE DAVID OLNEY LIVE."
James Cooper - LonesomeHighway.com (Dublin, Ireland) - May 2010
"Olney Unbound... part Baptist PREACHER, part caustic COMEDIAN, and part existential BLUESMAN...Olney shouted, moaned and howled his SHARPLY OBSERVED HARD-LUCK TALES and quirky character studies."
"Nothing is casual, but nothing sounds forced. Olney OLNEY HAS ALWAYS HAD AN EDGE in his ballads, where he lets you know THE MESSAGE IS REAL."
John Shelton Ivany - John Shelton Ivany's "Top 21"
"Olney's that rare singer/songwriter who can adopt the gravelly voice, dabble in myriad old-timey music styles ranging from honky-tonk to Tin Pan Alley and actually make it work. THINK TOM WAITS."
Creative Loafing (Tampa, FL)
"Olney unveils the ever-captivating story in song [on "THE STONE"], without a heavy emphasis on the religious elements, and the experiment works."
Jeffrey Sisk - ~ The Daily News (Pittsburgh, PA)
"I saw Olney playing at a festival this spring and thought he looked like a FEDORA-SPORTING, fiftysomething HIGH-SCHOOL PRINCIPAL who'd SUDDENLY GONE BERSERK and was using his acoustic guitar like it was a weapon. Love this crazy guy, LOVE THIS RECORD."
Jeff Spevak - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (NY)
“SEE THE SHOW -- “We went to this show with a very good impression of Olney and his music. We left...being transformed into Olney fans for life. Yes, the man is THAT good.””
Steve Fievet - BabySue.com
"Rugged, literate, ambitious and playfully creative...WHEREVER OLNEY GOES, HE GOES COMPLETELY. By all means, ALLOW HIM TO TAKE YOU ALONG."
Jim Musser - Iowa Press-Citizen
"David Olney is an old hand at vivid storytelling through song, but his latest installment, the EP The Stone, is like being transported back 2000 years. Not a rote retelling of the Gospels, the songs here take the typical tales and turn them inside out to get at a new perspective on the Word. Olney doesn’t endorse one particular religious view or another in these songs, choosing instead to simply lay out the tale in such a unique manner that those who already believe and those who do not may be equally
Kevin Oliver - ~ Music That Matters (blog)
"Olney stands out LIKE A JALEPENO IN A BOWL OF VANILLA PUDDING in Nashville...'Sweet Poison' is a shot of rockabilly so stout it should make most of the current crop of pompadoured fakers sell their instruments and go back to 40-hour weeks at Burger King...a TRUE GENIUS of American song."
William Michael Smith - Houston Press (TX)
"...the songs are not outside the realm of possibilities when stacked up against biblical records and Olney’s imagination brings a powerful human element into the 2,000-year-old story. It takes a huge talent to pull off such a project, and Olney pulls it off very well."
Kezzie Baker - Music Is Good
"Olney is a veteran songwriter whose skill with turning a
phrase and delivering it with WHOLEHEARTED GUSTO is
MATCHED BY FEW, EVEN IN NASHVILLE."
"These sparsely arranged compositions allow the listener to focus on the real meat...Olney's SUPERB MELODIES and SMART NARRATIVES. In a world full of copycats, Olney continues to provide solid classic music that is real..."
““Is David Olney the Leonard Cohen of the Americana Movement?””
Alan Harrison - No Depression
"[Olney's] performance is exuberant and his songs and presence always fill the entire room."
~ Urban Country News
““Sergio Webb weaves his skillful guitar seamlessly into [David] Olney's rich tones and UNFORGETTABLE STORIES. The duo takes listeners on A MUSICAL JOURNEY that separates the very good from the ONE-OF-A-KIND PERFORMANCES.””
Sioux City Journal
“... GRIPPING and THOUGHT-PROVOKING, proves Olney to be a stone-cold storyteller with an intriguing philosophical bent.”
Celine Keating - Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“David Olney remains A MONUMENTAL STORYSPINNER. The sinister tales are subtly told but packed with perfectly polished observations”
Philadelphia City Paper
“Across five songs Olney totally nails the essence of this black-and-white movie genre”
“Bourbon drenched tunes that owe a debt to times gone by.”
“ARE YOU READY BOOTS??”
“A 60s mod-classic has been totally reinvented as a sort of raw, roadhouse standard.”
Director Brian Smith
“Separating the Wheat from the Chaff”