David Olney “Don’t Try To Fight It” (Red Parlor Records 2017)

The rules are there are no rules. These seem to be the only guidelines followed by David Olney in the creation of ‘Don’t Try To Fight It’, the latest addition to his considerable catalogue that covers over 40 years recording. Olney is described as something of a ‘Renaissance man’ being not just a recording artist, but Shakespearean actor, writer of sonnets, radio show host in Nashville and online blogger. Clearly a man of considerable talent and interests then and that shines through in ‘Don’t Try To Fight It’, an album that defies easy categorisation.

What we are clearly dealing with here is an artist to whom the creation of the song is everything, and the possible style is an opportunity rather than a straight-jacket. There simply is not a catch-all description that would describe this disparate but excellent collection of finely honed songs. For a man whose tracks have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Del McCoury, it could almost be a compilation album such is the divergent styles.

The album opens in a rambunctious manner with the ‘dirty Blues’ of If They Ever Let Me Out, a true rocker that lures you into a “I’ve got the measure of this” type swagger. But you haven’t at all as the next track, Innocent Heart, will have you scratching your head and wondering who let Al Martino in the room. A little unfair on subsequent listening as the Latino-feel can grow on you, but it does give an idea of the range of styles contained on here.

Olney is also able to paint vivid character sketches. These are best seen on Crack In The Wall, which considers the impact on personal relationships of the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and Situation, a suitably spooky study of a watchman who is unsure exactly what is wrong. Yesterday’s News, a song Olney has had for a while, has a delightful Cajun feel to it while Big Top (Tornado) is the perfect example of Olney’s skill in invoking imagery, here blending the circus top with an oncoming storm in Oklahoma.

The stand out moment for this reviewer however is the sublimely touching Evermore, a ballad of genuine warmth, redolent with nostalgia and such a contrast with the range of other tracks that everything seems to make perfect sense after hearing it. No rules followed, except the craft of a master songsmith, ‘Don’t Try To Fight It’ is a collection of varied and beguiling tracks.

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