David Olney

The Wheel

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David Olney is generally characterized as a folk singer/songwriter, but that description doesn't quite jibe with the gutbucket country-rock music he actually plays. The folk tag is probably applied because, as much as his arrangements rock, they are in the service of his highly poetic lyrics, which he sings in a craggy baritone. Then, too, his songs, though newly written, often sound like old traditional folk songs. Here, in particular, "Voices on the Water," co-written with Gwil Owen, easily could be mistaken for some old song that developed out of a spiritual. Olney sometimes writes a basic love song to an acoustic guitar accompaniment, such as "Now and Forever," but more often his lyrics are allusive and his band veers back and forth in shambling rhythmic patterns that suggest the Tom Waits of Swordfishtrombones, without being quite as extreme. "God Shaped Hole" is a good example of this tendency. Pursuing an established style that is his own, Olney is now 15 albums into his career on the margins of the record business, and those who haven't followed him this far may have some trouble getting into The Wheel, at least at first. But over the course of successive listenings, it may come to seem a classic collection of bedrock verities and blues-rock performance.

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