After covering various reviews, where do you start when writing about a seasoned singer/songwriter who has had his music covered by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, made an appearance on Austin City Limits, and even wrote a love song about the iceberg crashing into the Titanic “from the icebergs point of view”? Yes, he really wrote that. Regardless, it’s simple. You wait until David Olney “deals you the ace of spades” with his newest album, When The Deal Goes Down.
For David, the deal went down July 2014 with an impressive album that runs with tragedy, humor, and well-done theatrics, not to mention adding an impressive tuba to the mix. This is David Olney and his newest album deals a hand that is truly a winner. When The Deal Goes Down is creative, distinctive, and leaves you avid for more.
The album opener gives us something we all have or will experience, life and death. It’s a bit ironic. The minute we are born we begin the dying process. It might be depressing for some, but David gives us the impression that he is dealing with the Death Card, the ace of spades. Conversely, the ace of spades is also the symbol of good luck. In David’s song, his ace of spades could be either or both. Here, he appears to be talking to his creator, his higher power. Oddly, David is not asking much, except for his creator to be there when it’s his time to go to that great singer/songwriter’s heaven in the sky. Taking tongue out of cheek, David’s lyrics are very honest and clear singing, “you don’t have to die for me,” “give me life,” “or lie for me.” You don’t even have to save my soul. “Just tell me you’ll be there when the deal goes down.” This is an interesting position where someone is asking for very little when many will be hoping and grabbing for all the straws they can get their hands on. David seems to write from an antithetical point of view. It definitely makes the song compelling and different. It takes this writer back to the iceberg waiting for the love of its life, Titanic.
Another example of David’s unique writing is “Soldier of Misfortune.” Even though it is a piece that was written in 1975, it still offers a clear difference how people think about the American soldier in modern times. Most people want to forget how Vietnam vets were treated when they arrived home. It was a horrible time for them. Even for me who never set foot in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), it was so shameful to simply wear the uniform among American civilians during that time. In those days, the American soldier was considered part of the problem. I really like the lines, “Had my dreams, but then lost them.” “I am weary for my rest.” For many, that meant their final resting place. I really like the arrangement for this piece. It reminded me somewhat of a Marty Robbins Tex-Mex sound. This number was very well produced. I particularly liked the piano accompaniment.
David follows up with another tune that continues with a western flavor with “Something In Blue,” written by Bill and Ross Jackson. It‘s a very simple piece but once again David is singing from the other side. Blue has so many meanings, it means sadness to most, but it’s not quite the complete definition. It is considered the color of truth, friendship, and sincerity. It also symbolizes the Virgin Mary. Think about it. How many scenes of Christmas do you see in twilight blue? Here, David is singing with such sincerity. “I was born like the restless wind. But your love, your love changed everything. Go out and buy something in blue, it’s the only thing left to do. Cause blue, blue looks good on you.” That’s pretty good stuff. However, he flips the coin to the other side with “Why So Blue?” This piece has a nice tight flow to it. I really love the guitars here, especially the rhythm guitar. It reminded me a bit of a Hawaiian Les Paul sound.
I truly love another track “Mister Stay At Home.” It is very raw, back to your early roots type music. David states it’s a “jug band feel with some Mills Brothers thrown in.” I would like to add some Hank Williams to the mix as well. It’s a good piece everyone will surely like. “Roll This Stone” is another blues piece that has that early vintage sound. It’s great when someone produces an album that has a little of everything. Did I hear Muddy Waters at times in this track? “No Trace” is another tune that takes you back. It has a good message to it realizing what is important and what is not. I love the line, “If they come, there is something you’re going to need to know, what you want to keep, and what you are willing to let go.” I feel the song is sending a message helping us to see the important things in life.
“Sad Saturday Night” was another one that grabbed me as well. This is a song for everyone to hear as it sends out a true to life message. When alone on a Saturday night, we have this impression we are the only ones due to a break up or just lack of a social life. In reality, there are many that belong to this club and David does a great job telling us a story of loneliness and regret. As David points out, it’s only an illusion as he sings; “Everyone’s gone on a sad Saturday night.” Musically, I love the way he gives the song a lonesome theme adding the tuba in the background. It helps add a satirical message opposed to what many feel in this tune. David finishes the album with “Big Blue Hole.” Once again we hear of the color “blue” describing our final resting place. I’m not sure if David meant this line to be positive, negative, or neither. However, it’s an interesting spin as David sings, “Heaven ain’t nothing but a big blue hole.”
David Olney is idiosyncratic in his songwriting and he is very good at working his art. He seems to have a keen sense looking at the other side, seeing what others don’t see, and telling stories from a prospective that most can relate while thinking of it possibly for the first time. He definitely has a way of storytelling that at times is in unseen territory. I particularly like the way his music has so much versatility, especially in this album. He has something that surely will take him places “When The Deal Goes Down.” It is no wonder other artists want to record his music. I think they feel what David feels and it clicks for them. He is a man of many flavors in music.
This is David Olney resurrecting himself When The Deal Goes Down.