Dave Olson is a Twin Cities-based singer-songwriter with a John Prine disposition, a heartfelt delivery, and a knack for catchy melodies. In his seasoned voice, Olson sings about old friendships, restless hearts, lost loves, and ordinary people trying to find meaning.
Olson started writing and performing his songs in Iowa City when he was 18. Inspired equally by Iowa songwriters like Greg Brown and Dave Moore and by the roots-rock of Bo Ramsey and the Backsliders and High and Lonesome, Olson released his first record #80 in 2001. He toured and performed with his band the One-Timers for several years, sharing the stage with such acts as Neko Case, Big Sandy, and Martin Zellar. In 2003 Olson moved to St. Paul, MN where he continues to write and perform.
Olson's new album No October combines his direct, conversational writing style with drummer and producer Richard Medek’s atmospheric aesthetic to create an album with a distinct personality. From the first intake of breath in the opening track “So Long Blues” to the ringing notes that fade into a Minnesota night after the closing track “Buddy Holly,” No October is a rich, rewarding experience that will linger with the listener.
Recorded largely in a barn in rural Minnesota, No October captures the ambiance and character of their makeshift studio along with great performances by several talented Twin Cities musicians. The album features contributions from Benson Ramsey (the Pines), Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), and a haunting duet with Iowa songwriter Pieta Brown on an original arrangement of Tom Wait’s “Georgia Lee.”
Richard Medek - Drums, Percussion
Chris Bates - Electric and Upright Bass
Shane Akers - Lap Steel, Dobro
Erik Koskinen - Electric Guitars
"No October," 2012
Olson's No October an inventive folk gem
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When Billy Steiner makes a musical recommendation, I’m prepared to listen. The man who’s carved ... When Billy Steiner makes a musical recommendation, I’m prepared to listen.
The man who’s carved a devoted following as a leading man for City Mouse and has a hand in numerous other musical projects has forgotten more about music than I’ll ever know. So, when he strode into the newsroom last week with a copy of Dave Olson’s “No October” and an announcement that Olson would be playing in Mankato on Friday at the Wine Cafe, I moved it to the top of my dishwashing pile.
Washing dishes is, for me, a loathsome task made tolerable only by a well-crafted musical playlist.
I often solicit recommendations for said playlist. At the behest of fellow reporter Dan Nienaber, I tried a little Gogol Bordello (my first, and so far only, enjoyable experience with Gypsy punk music). After a morning being regaled with stories about The Replacements’ booze-fueled flameouts, I spent an evening introducing myself to their catalogue. I’ve spent more than a few evenings perusing the playlists offered by an obscure (and torturously intermittent) blog called “American Roots Music” -- raicesdelsonido.blogspot.com -- which has introduced me to the work of underappreciated session guitarists like Grady Martin and Jody Williams.
Last Sunday, I had been preparing all along to meet a cake-encrusted pan and three days’ accumulation of plates with a re-listen of Beck’s “Sea Change.” It’s one of my favorites.
But, in Billy I trusted. And he didn’t disappoint.
“No October” is moody, clever (without being coy) and evocative. It’s everything contemporary folk music can be when put into the hands of a musician who is unafraid to strike an original note in a genre that is all too often saddled with a sort of nostalgic stasis.
Olson wrote all but two of the album’s 12 tracks and his songwriting is impressively authentic.
In “So Long Blues,” the St. Paul-based (but Iowa born) musician personifies the music he plays as a cruel, heartbreaking lover with whom he must painfully, but inevitably, depart. Buoyed by the warm, textured guitar of Benson Ramsey (of The Pines), he forcefully delivers a lyric that reads comically on paper, but serves as the sonic crescendo to what might be the album’s signature track: “So long blues/ get your (expletive) and get out.”
In “Heart Breaking Down,” Olson mixes a Hammond B3 organ into the arrangement, lending some Gospel sass to the declaration that a “grown woman’s got to shoot her own dog” and the plea to hear “my heart breaking down.” “Georgia Lee” is a satiny cover of the Tom Waits’ song, performed in duo with Pieta Brown and among the tracks that showcase Olson’s vocals.
Maybe you’ll disagree, but I found Olson’s album to be refreshingly inventive. If nothing else, it’s good music for washing dishes.
CD review: Forgettable name doesn’t do music justice
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St. Paul-based singer-songwriter Dave Olson asked me last week if I had been the interviewer for a r...St. Paul-based singer-songwriter Dave Olson asked me last week if I had been the interviewer for a radio show he did in Duluth a few years ago.
I told him “could have been.” But I hosted over 3,600 “live” sessions through 32 years, and I just couldn’t remember them all.
When I checked out Olson’s brand new disc “No October,” in three vocal notes I could immediately remember the session. I clearly remember him as being skilled, poised and very talented.
I think the reason I couldn’t immediately recall the session has to do at least a little bit with the plainness of his name. Dave Olson just doesn’t light up the marquee like Ozzy Osbourne does.
Though the name might be plain, the abilities are not. Olson is better than I remember, as he continues to find avenues to explore as a songwriter that are wonderfully original. He seems to find people in the cracks between stages of life that catch those painful and trying periods before the comfort of the lesson has been solidified. He hangs on these like a bluesman hanging on the perfect bent note that catches you right in the solar plexus.
Recorded in a barn (seriously) in Buffalo, Minn., with a ton of wonderful musical friends assisting, including Ryan Young (Trampled By Turtles), Benson Ramsey (The Pines), Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), Pete Sands (The Honeydogs), bluesman Teddy Morgan, accordion ace Dan Newton, Pieta Brown, Erik Koskinen, Molly Maher and several others. The most impressive part of the deal is that Olson is never buried by his friends. They simply help to bring to life this inspired batch of songs.
“So Long Blues” is a melancholy look at someone who’s lived with the blues for so long that “I’m sick of trying to remember what life without you was all about.”
“Bottle Will Follow” is a hypnotic little blues song that describes the omni-present nature of that addiction. Benson Ramsey’s ethereal electric slide lines metamorphose from snaky and slithery into a full-blown hurricane that parallels the lyrics.
Pieta Brown adds her succulent voice to Tom Waits’ “Georgia Lee,” which Olson has re-arranged here as a duet. It’s a stunning re-make that’d have its author snap his fingers and say, “Dude, you got it dead on.”
Olson has the habit of getting the kernel of a song from something that happened to family and friends and embellishing.
“Blues For a Girl” includes Samson & Delilah and Bonnie & Clyde and invokes his father as Olson describes the bond that develops between soul mates that just can’t be denied.
The title track sprang from a friend’s visit to his brother with whom he’ll “smoke and drink beer and have breakfast each afternoon.” It shows how siblings actually can become “strangers.”
“No October” is roots music at its best, as Olson combines an undercurrent of blues throughout the project and layers country and folk over that in an amalgam that is wire-welded airtight.
The writing is first-rate. Olson’s voice is smooth and evocative. The musicianship is exemplary and always serves the song. “No October” is better than most things from major labels, such as they are these days.
Now, can we work on finding Dave a new stage name that catches the attention that he deserves and will stick more radiantly in the memory banks?
Is Ziggy Stardust taken?
CD review: No October
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Now well-entrenched in the Twin Cities, singer/songwriter Dave Olson cut his musical teeth in Iowa C...Now well-entrenched in the Twin Cities, singer/songwriter Dave Olson cut his musical teeth in Iowa City circa 1995, heavily influenced by area-based roots musicians Dave Moore, Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey.
Sporting an agreeable, mellifluous tenor that ranges from bell-toned to slightly reedy, Olson works mainly in bluesy modern folk and post-’70s singer/songwriter balladry, but also can rock with conviction.
Released earlier this month, Olson’s third CD is a gorgeous, generously appointed set featuring stylish input from My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, The Pines’ Benson Ramsey, The Honeydogs’ keyboardist Peter Sands and — on a shimmering duet arrangement of Tom Waits’ “Georgia Lee” — the sublime Pieta Brown.
Drummer/producer Richard Medek assembles a rich aural canvas, and treasures are many, but don’t miss “So Long Blues,” the Freedy Johnston-worthy “Heart Breaking Down” and the heartland rocker “Before You Made Me Say Goodbye.”
Dave Olson will perform for a CD release party at 8 p.m. Sunday at The Mill Restaurant. ($7 cover).
It don't take all that much to teach a growing boy to fetch
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"Olson's the real thing ladies and gentlemen...Instrumentally Robust, vocally engaging, and lyricall..."Olson's the real thing ladies and gentlemen...Instrumentally Robust, vocally engaging, and lyrically smart in more ways than one, the songs captured my attention fast".
No Depression review for "#80"
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"...there's a self-effacing Woody Guthrie quality here that's hard to deny. The results feels somet..."...there's a self-effacing Woody Guthrie quality here that's hard to deny. The results feels something like a sturdy, well made fence that just had to be built. From the shivering empathy of 'The Workin' Life' to the Sun-era Orbison shake of 'Candy' to they hypnotic inward spiral of 'Alien Song' and beyond, Olson creates compelling side roads that make it worth taking the green-signed off ramp."
Sing Out! review for "#80"
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"...an acoustic amalgam of country, rock and blues, featuring Olson's driving guitar and smoky vocal..."...an acoustic amalgam of country, rock and blues, featuring Olson's driving guitar and smoky vocals, plus a vigorous rhythm section. His songs of farms, factory towns, lovers faithful and faithless...are written and played with skill and conviction."
Review for "#80"
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"A terrific songwriter whose natural, deeply personal delivery lends extra weight to the populist, w..."A terrific songwriter whose natural, deeply personal delivery lends extra weight to the populist, working-class themes of his material. Olson's reedy rasp variously recalls such folk heavyweights as the young Prine, Dylan, and Arlo Guthrie, yet without a trace of the affectation and self-consciousness that often come with the turf..."
Review of live performance
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"Dave Olson from St. Paul is a heartland songwriter with a knack for simple tunes that somehow manag..."Dave Olson from St. Paul is a heartland songwriter with a knack for simple tunes that somehow manage to sound familiar and refreshingly unique at the same time. An engaging performer, he's a folkie that can rock-out and a roots-rocker who can pull back and tell a good story. As a songwriter, Olson is subtle and delicate, often letting his characters and stories speak their own purposes, politics, and conclusions. He sings of the quiet nuances found in relationships, work, play, and family, and has earned a growing audience by using these familiar and universal themes as a bridge between himself and the listener."
Billings Gazette review for #80
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Holy Mama, that Dave Olson is something! Something different, something genuine - something you can ...Holy Mama, that Dave Olson is something! Something different, something genuine - something you can pass onto your pals without qualifying. #80 is a fine piece of work, a great voice. It's something everyone who has shelled out $16 plus shipping for a CD from one of the thousands of sound-alike bands without a soul should hear. Hallelujah.
Roots Town review for #80
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This record, dear readers, has to be discovered, imported, plugged and loved with great urgency: it'...This record, dear readers, has to be discovered, imported, plugged and loved with great urgency: it's no less that a fantastically beautiful collection of simple songs.
Up to 3 60 minute sets, almost entirely original.
Occational cover songs by groups like The Pixies, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Greg Brown, Bob Dylan.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.