I remember the 1st time I heard about David Olney. It was a blurb on a music website in January of 2020, saying that he had passed away while playing a concert. He looked out at the audience, said “I’m sorry” and closed his eyes. It seemed like a fitting way for an artist to leave this mortal coil – yet I didn’t explore his music further at that time. Since then, we’ve had a pandemic, I’ve relocated across the US, and the world seems more divided than it did just 18 months ago. Perusing through YouTube one night, a song by David Olney & Anana Kaye was suggested to me and I played it. Again, and again. It spoke to me in a way that few songs do. My Favorite Goodbye was just the tip of the iceberg though – the entire album is incredible.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to make the connections between punk and country music. Not so much in musical styles – in attitude. Once it sunk in (about 18 months after the last Johnny Cash show in my neck of the woods at the time), I was hooked. You couldn’t find enough Cash, Gram Parsons, or Mike Nesmith records for me (yep, that Mike Nesmith). I’m not a fan of most Nashville, radio friendly country music. But give me some outlaw country, and I”m all over that. Punk spirit and tunes that cut straight to the heart. Harley Graves fits into this mold perfectly.
In the mid 90’s I’d often buy a CD based on a gut feeling or based on the cover art. It wasn’t an exact science, but in early 1995 I picked up the debut album by Jewel called Pieces Of You. Hipster alert – that was a full 18 months before the album started to become a huge hit. Anyway, at the time Jewel seemed to be marketed to the Lilith Fair alternative crowd which was (and still is) something I quite like. In all honesty, I don’t think the record company had any idea what to do with her. An album full of acoustic songs that hinted at pop but bathed in ultra personal lyrics. I didn’t (and still don’t) think it was a masterpiece, but there are 7 or 8 songs from that record that I’ve played over and over throughout the last 20 years. The tracks played live or cut as b-sides during that era were also very strong, leaving open the possibility of an entire alternate album made up of non album tracks. Sad to say, but I have had a hard time relating to anything else Jewel has released in the same way as that debut album. When I happened to see something promoting her latest record as a sequel of sorts to her debut, I couldn’t help but get a tad excited to give it a spin (or shuffle, as it were). Picking Up The Pieces more than meets the high points of her debut – it just may be the finest record Jewel has released to date.