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One Tough Town

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Album Review

Musically, David Olney's album One Tough Town travels backward in time. By the second track, "Sweet Poison," he has reached the rockabilly of the 1950s; by the end, on "Rainbow's End," he sounds like he's trying to re-create the hit parade of the 1920s. Especially on recent albums, Olney has investigated more basic musical styles, sometimes by employing unusual instrumentation. Here, he and co-producer Jack Irwin have brought in a banjo player (Richard Bailey), while Olney sometimes plucks a ukulele, and there are horns including clarinet, saxophone, trombone, and even tuba. Previously, with his gruff voice and gutbucket arrangements, Olney has recalled the later Tom Waits; on One Tough Town, that comparison remains valid, 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. "Who's the Dummy Now?" is sung in the voice of a ventriloquist's dummy, who is reading the riot act to the ventriloquist, to the point of berating his romantic technique with a date (that's what you get when you don't move your lips). The title song, a sort of religious/science fiction fantasy, is sung in the voice of Jesus Christ as if Christ were a cosmic comedian touring the universe who had come to Earth to play a few shows and gotten crucified for his trouble; now he is warning a fellow entertainer to stay away because the planet is "one tough town." How does a songwriter even get an idea like that? It's a question a listener may ask more than once listening to a David Olney album, and this is another good one.


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....
Full Bio
One Tough Town, David Olney
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: Jun 05, 2007

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