Carla Olson: Have Harmony Will Travel 2

The dream duets of a singer, producer and music fan

The role of vintage Top 40 radio can’t be understated in its influence and impact on the generation of musicians who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the years before consultants balkanized commercial radio into genre islands, AM radio offered a regionally-influenced mix of pop, rock, folk, country and soul that fueled the taste and imagination of both listeners and artists. Olson grew up in Austin, Texas listening to long-gone (and now surprisingly obscure) KNOW-AM, taking in the wide variety of influences reflected in this eclectic collection of covers. This follow-up to 2013’s Have Harmony Will Travel cherrypicks Olson’s deep musical memories of the Buffalo Springfield, Searchers, Governor Jimmy Davis, David Allan Coe, and adds songs, such as the previously unrecorded “Haunting Me,” that she picked up in her musical travels.

Olson pairs herself with compatriots and idols that include Gene Clark, Percy Sledge, Peter Noone, Terry Reid, Mick Taylor and Mare Winningham. The album opens with the Long Ryders’ Stephen McCarthy joining Olsen for a superb cover of Patty Loveless’ 1989 country hit “Timber, I’m Falling in Love.” Slowed to a deliberate tempo, the duet parlays the original’s ecstatic declaration into a mature, deep-gazing conversation of magnetic mutual attraction. For much of the album, Olson acts more as ringmaster than singing partner, drafting participants (including former Bee Gees’ guitarist Vince Melouney for a gallop through Governor Jimmy Davis’ “Shackles & Chains”), selecting song with the ears and heart of a music fan, singing harmonies and producing tracks.

As a producer, Olson fits the guests with songs, complimenting the pairings with nostalgia-tinged, guitar-based arrangements. Peter Noone rekindles the emotional throb of his early days with a cover of the Searchers’ “Goodbye My Love,” and Olson provokes appealing contrast in pairing the gravel of Terry Reid’s voice with the gentility of “Scarlet Ribbons.” She joins Eagle Timothy B. Schmit and steel player Rusty Young for the Buffalo Springfield B-side  “A Child’s Claim to Fame,” and adds harmony to actress Mare Winningham’s fetching cover of Gene Clark’s “After the Storm.” The latter track, along with Percy Sledge’s “Honest as Daylight,” I See Hawks in L.A.’s “Bossier City,” and Gene Clark’s “Del Gato,” were all previously released, but fit seamlessly among the newly recorded performances.

Olson pulled songwriter Jim Muske into the vocal booth to sing “Haunting Me,” a song he co-wrote with Pat Robinson for Phil Seymour, but left unrecorded with Seymour’s passing in 1993. This collection has been percolating in Olson’s musical soul for years, as she made mental notes of songs and colleagues she’d like to pair. The result is a roadmap of Olson’s journey from listener to diehard fan to working musician, fusing her childhood memories and influences with the professional experience and colleagues she gained over the decades. Her ear for combining songs, singers and arrangements pays remarkable dividends in the joy of these vocal and instrumental blends, and provides a fine complement to the earlier volume. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

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