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Through a Glass Darkly

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Album Review

David Olney's albums have always had a dark, introspective sort of vibe to them and this, his sixth for Philo, is perhaps even bleaker than his usual fare. Based around subjects concerning the 1920s and '30s (when the writer feels that the country turned from genteel to mean), some stark characters inhabit these songs and you, the listener, are caught in their unflinching gaze. Utilizing a string band approach (acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin, etc.) in keeping with the time frame of the songs, Olney's lyrics makes the musings of his old friend Townes Van Zandt (whose "Snowin' on Raton" he covers here, in addition to saluting him on the unbelievably bleak "The Suicide Kid") seem like Good Time Charlie in comparison. His song about John Dillinger is probably the most thought-provoking item on here, making us reassess the gangster in a much different light than the Depression-era Robin Hood image that is usually portrayed. Other stellar tunes include "Race Track Blues," "Barabbas," "That's All I Need to Know," "JT's Escape" and "Lay Down Your Kingdom." This is a tough album to get through, and if you're expecting some feel-good New Age music, you've come to the wrong address. It's like a car accident you happen by; you know you shouldn't gawk, but you just can't help but be drawn in. But songwriting this good, this strong, and this magical deserves a much wider hearing.


Born: March 23, 1948 in Providence, RI

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Though multi-instrumentalist David Olney is a folk singer at heart, he incorporates wide-ranging inspirations from honky tonk to rock into his standard repertoire. Born in Rhode Island, Olney moved to Nashville during the early '70s and became a major player in the city's underground folk/country scene. He gained a contract with the folk label Philo several years later. Though his first half-dozen albums were recorded before the end of the decade, Olney's output during the '80s slowed considerably....
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Through a Glass Darkly, David Olney
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