I'd like to start out this "Music Row" column this time around by mentioning a great event that took place right there in Louisville: the eighth anniversary show of Homefront Performances. The two concerts, recorded live for radio, went off without a hitch, thanks to the sweat and blood of a small group of hard-working individuals. They all volunteer their time and effort to bring the Louisville public one fine concert after another. They've been doing it for eight years now and I for one am da-n proud of them. I was happy to make the drive back to my hometown to take part in the show, which was billed as a fund-raiser for future productions. Don't forget to tune your radios to WFPL FM 89.3 every Sunday at 1 p.m. to find out what I'm talking about. To all of the board members just elected and the volunteers, I send my warmest congratulations. May there be many more years to come of Louisville Homefront Performances! A big thank you to Bonnie Cecil, who allowed us all to invade her home for the after-show party and jam session. Just one more thing: if you would like to become a member, which includes discounts on all shows, or a volunteer, write to: Louisville Homefront Performances, P. O. Box 4782, Louisville, KY 40204. It's a tax-deductible way to support fine live music in Derby City.
Speaking of the Kentucky Derby makes me think of strong runners and roses. And thinking of strong runners reminds me of a classic CD that came out around the first of the year entitled Roses. The singer and songwriter whose name it bears is, to me, one of America's most thought-provoking, yet humorous, most passionate, yet dry and witty, troubadours rambling around the world today. I'm speaking of David Olney, who is quietly breaking through that fuzzy barrier from "relatively unknown" to "in demand" with the release of his third solo recording on Philo (Rounder). This new collection of songs, which Jim Bessman gave a three-and-a-half-star review of in the February issue of Rolling Stone magazine, and which has liner notes of praise and thanks by Townes Van Zandt, would have been just as high on my list even without these impressive endorsements.
With the producing collaboration of folk and bluegrass veteran Jim Rooney, and riveting guitarist-turned-journalist Tommy Goldsmith, Olney lifts us by the collar of our shirts and shakes us real good with his angry rough side, then turns us loose and we float to the ground by way of his soft and tender side. He does this time and again with love ballads and wry tales of Lee's highway, lean and hungry years, millionaires, liars, thieves, murderers, tattoos, roses and even real love. David's imagery and emotions are raw and believable. The man who has a soul rocker living inside him also has deep roots in the blues and urban folk. These tracks are alive with energy and urgency, due primarily to the fact that it was recorded mostly live at once, with very few overdubs. This is refreshing and rare these days and gives the listener a "right there" feeling. I tired to select a cut or two to elaborate on but it was too hard to narrow down. I like them all. There are two of the eleven songs that David did not write: "Last Fair Deal," the Robert Johnson wrencher, and Townes Van Zandt's "Rex's Blues," which is full of Van Zandt's touch of unrelated yet emotionally linked philosophical phrases.
The ragged-edge and groove-set tightness is beautifully created by the outstanding lineup of talent recruited for the job: Kenny Malone on drums; Roy Huskey Jr. on upright bass; Stephanie Davis on fiddle and trumpet; Pat McLaughlin on mandolin; and Mike Henderson on National slide guitar and mandolin. Rooney and Goldsmith helped out on acoustic guitar as well as harmony vocals along with David Ball and Walter Hyatt. Olney plays acoustic guitar and harmonica. Goldsmith, by the way, is a former member of Olney's famed X-rays, with whom he released one LP called Contender. I'm sure it's still available from Rounder Records.
As he did with his two previous solo releases, Eye of the Storm (Rounder) and Deeper Well (Philo/Rounder), David Olney once again delivers nothing but solid punches to the senses. I highly recommend that you go pick up or send for his four-disc collection on Rounder while there are still only a few to catch up on. I promise that the small investment will be well worth the large aesthetic satisfaction.
As for me, I'll be on the road quite heavily in this merry, merry month of May, including stops in Frankfort, Ky., at Rick's City Cafe on the 29th and the Rudyard Kipling in Derby City on the 30th. So come on down!