The cover of When The Deal Goes Down (Deadbeet) has David Olney dealing out the ace of spades. The inside cover has him smirking as cards fly around his head. He knows the ace of spades is the death card. Do you? On the back cover, he’s contemplating a skull. Maybe what remains of the player who received the death card? Or is he acting out a Hamlet scene? After all, he portrayed Lord Amiens in the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s production of As You Like It.
Truth is, he’s hardly your typical singer/songwriter.
He’s funny (“Servant, Job” wherein God and Satan are hangin’ out together and they bet that Satan can’t get Job to curse God’s name), he’s tragic (“No Trace”), he rocks the title-track and you can even call him a folkie (“Little Bird”). He won’t mind. Philosophical, wise beyond his 66 years, he left Rhode Island to head south in his 20s, ended up in Tennessee and wrote the kind of the songs that were recorded by Emmylou and Ronstadt. One of his earlier creations, “Titanic,” was written from the iceberg’s point of view.
He went rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘80s, fronting The X-Rays, before his Eye Of The Storm hit in 1986. 25 CDs later, he’s still raising eyebrows and bodies from their seats to hit the dance floor in the kind of roadhouses he’s held court in for the last 28 years.
Highlights? The dark “Scarecrow Man” is about the “demons we create in our own minds.” It was originally a cha cha. “Mister Stay At Home” has a jug band feel with Mills Brothers harmony about an old grouch who goes to town for some fun. Definitely autobiographical. “Sad Saturday Night” has a tuba. “Big Blue Hole” is where you go when you die.
Argentinian Dino Saluzzi plays one hell of a bandoneon on his 23rd album, El Valle de la Infancia (ECM). You can call it an accordion or a squeezebox if you want but there’s subtle differences. The Dino Saluzzi Group is a family band with his son on guitar, his nephew on bass and his brother on sax and clarinet. Add a drummer and a second guitarist and the pleasures of this sound insinuates itself into your cerebral cortex. Recorded in Buenos Aries, where he is a certifiable legend, Saluzzi has sweetened the styles of Rickie Lee Jones (1991’s Pop Pop) and three Al Di Meola CDs. Here, he’s exquisite, as the bandoneon can sound like an orchestra. Romantic, tango-tinged, cinematic, its swirling depth can provide quite the respite from all your other listening. Truly alternative.
The six tracks of Hold On—the sweet self-released debut of Dave & Emma Hart—slide down like a summer salad and feels so good in doing so. Bluegrassy Americana roots music is taking over where country music, as a corporate genre, has been letting us down for years. Here come the Harts to restore our faith. Emma’s voice and her classically-trained violin are backed with accordion, banjo, flute, Hammond B-3 organ and even synthesizer. Her string-master singer/songwriter dad on mandolin plus electric and acoustic guitar proves himself to be a strong musical ally. I’m already looking forward to their debut full-length, as everyone I’ve played this thing for, from fans of pop to fans of folk, has loved it.
Let’s end this sucker with some Good News (Stony Plain) by Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, a mostly instrumental blues and rockin’ soul party from the man who was named “Best Guitarist” at the 35th Annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis. It’s his eighth and contains bad-ass versions of Junior Wells’ “In The Wee Hours” and Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come.” He co-wrote “Blues For Henry” with the late legend Hubert Sumlin. Vocalist Diane Blue adds some sex appeal. The CD ends with a song written by a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, “Runnin’ In Peace.”