David Olney


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Migration, David Olney's 16th album, is a typical effort for him, one in which he constructs story-songs and inhabits various characters. Lyrically speaking, the chief innovations are that he has taken more of an interest in speaking on behalf of non-human characters, particularly birds ("Lenora"), and that he is more interested than usual in singing about love. Of course, personifying a bird isn't all that much of a stretch for a man who once wrote a song in the role of an iceberg ("Titanic"), but the love songs are a bit unusual, and it's notable that Olney is usually a co-author with someone else on them. Musically, he seems to have taken his cue largely from Bob Dylan's Desire, employing a violin, played by Deanie Richardson, to shadow his vocals much as Dylan had Scarlet Rivera do on that album. On a couple of songs, however, as he also did on 2003's The Wheel, Olney looks more to Tom Waits of the Swordfishtrombones and later period, taking a junkyard rock approach on "Speak Memory" and especially "Upside Down." While there is nothing wrong with this album, it is more one for the faithful than for new fans. With his gruff, relatively inexpressive voice, Olney is something of an acquired taste, and this is an album that requires several listenings to sink in, at which point it fits in with the rest of the catalog but does not rise above it.

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