On Saturday, August 18, David Olney, a forefather of the Americana music genre, will perform for Flying Cat Music at the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM). The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $20 or $17 with reservations. For information or reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-688-9453.
David Olney didn’t exactly invent roots music, in one form or another it goes back centuries. But with more than twenty albums recorded over the course of a career that he launched in the seventies, you could say that David’s roots are showing, with songs that range from gentle folk ballads, to biting blues, to snarling hard-edged rock. And then, when you least expect it, he can shatter that template and pen a song that could have been a hit for Perry Como. Above all else, David Olney is a songwriter; in his case an extraordinary one. In fact the Los Angeles Times calls Olney, “the best songwriter you’ve never heard of.” The Philadelphia Inquirer captures David Olney well with this: “The Nashville troubadour has been making gripping music for a long time. Olney rocks with blistering intensity…but he also mesmerizes.”
A larger public profile and widespread commercial success may so far have eluded Olney, but there’s still time for the world to catch up with him. The New York Times once ran a feature on David Olney called, “The Pop Life: An Outsider Keeps Digging,” that pondered his obvious talent yet relative obscurity. It praised his “tight, powerful, empathetic and highly literate writing” and reflected, “Some say Mr. Olney is too literary: he writes songs about Barabbas, John Dillinger and John Barrymore.” Then again, Olney’s sometimes odd sensibilities might be a contributing factor as well. One brief excerpt from that New York Times story, concerning David’s short-lived resolve to write more commercially, perhaps offers some insight: “One result: a song about the Titanic told from the iceberg’s point of view.” No Depression Magazine later reviewed that song, calling it, “creepy, macabre, and beautiful. And despite its being a reliable crowd-pleaser at his live shows, it’s also hard to imagine it getting spins on the radio.”
Back home in Nashville, as literate and/or unusual as he may undoubtedly be, David Olney has managed to turn some heads. You can ask Emmy Lou Harris about Olney’s commercial viability. By now she’s recorded several of David’s songs (as did Linda Ronstadt ) including one from her Grammy winning album Wrecking Ball on which they share writing credits. The Nashville Scene calls David Olney, “a firebrand founding father of Americana music whose musical bona fides trace straight to the great Townes Van Zandt himself.” And Townes Van Zandt himself once said of Olney, “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney.”
David Olney doesn’t make it to these parts all that often, so his concert for Flying Cat Music this Saturday night will offer New York locals a rare opportunity to hear this master spin his craft. David Olney will be accompanied for this performance by Daniel Seymour on doghouse bass and vox.