If you don’t already know Olga, just listen to her music—and you will.
As this lithe, willowy woman settles into her guitar, the throaty voice that pours out of her takes you by surprise, transporting you to the easy rhythm of a sultry New Orleans afternoon. Gritty and honest, soulful and stirring, Olga sings about love and loss, relationships and the road ahead.
Fans all over the world will tell you that Olga’s songs have an undeniable authenticity to them, stemming from inspiration drawn from her own life—a journey steeped in music, and the blues. Olga spent years honing her sound in the hill country of northern Mississippi, with friends and mentors like Los Lobos (her “favorite band, and people!”) and blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill helping shape her musical trajectory.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Olga was classically trained in music as a child. Her parents, who moved stateside from Innsbruck, Austria, encouraged her as she began writing songs on the piano at the age of five. In high school, Jimi Hendrix provided her first taste of the blues.
“I began music very early, and started writing songs very young,” she recalls. “I got into the ‘business’ side of things through a chance meeting with a record archivist at a Grateful Dead show in my late teens. He introduced me to Los Lobos and Maria Muldaur, and I apprenticed with Maria soon thereafter. Los Lobos ‘adopted’ me, and let me hang out and observe how they did things. I often sat on the stage during their shows.”
The guitar she received for Christmas in her early twenties sealed her fate. By that time she was living in Colorado and working as a radio disk-jockey. It was during this period that she discovered Jessie Mae Hemphill’s records.
“At that point, I knew I had to move south, as my real journey was only beginning,” Olga remembers.
New Orleans and, later, Mississippi, offered the rich musical climate she craved. Olga looked up Jessie Mae Hemphill in Mississippi, and paid her a visit. The two artists soon discovered, among other things, that they shared the same birthday.
“Jessie Mae and I immediately felt a kinship for one another when we met,” she says. “She told me that first day that she thought Jesus sent me to her.”
While Olga’s been likened to greats such as Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, and Sheryl Crow, the truth is she’s carved out a sound that’s entirely her own. Her current album, Whatever You Want, has an upbeat pop flavor, with bluesy undertones.
“The songs on this album are rooted in the truth as I know it in my life, rooted in the blues,” Olga explains, “but we changed the sound, so a broader audience can experience them—hopefully in a positive way.”
The drums were a key component in shaping the sound of Whatever You Want—a record about leaving the past behind and starting over. Olga asked her longtime friend Cody Dickinson, drummer for the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars, to lay down the drums for her. Dickinson, also an accomplished guitar and bass player, songwriter, and producer, agreed—and soon took over the lion’s share of the instrumentation, which he paired with Olga’s melodies and lyrics. Producer and engineer Winn McElroy “took everything and made it sound good!” Olga laughs. Whatever You Want was recorded at Black Wings Studio in Water Valley, Mississippi.
“This record has been a process of finding my soul again, and reminding myself of what I need to do with my life,” she says. “It really took on a life of its own, quite naturally and unexpectedly, and I’m thrilled with where it has led me.”
Olga has four previous albums under her belt: North Mississippi Christmas, Now Is The Time, Kiss Your Blues Away, and Blues Babe. All three albums elicited overwhelmingly positive reviews. Olga has shared the stage with talent such as Chris Isaak, DJ Logic, Johnny Neel of the Allman Brothers, Coco Robicheaux, Robert Randolph, Los Lobos, North Mississippi Allstars, Papa Mali, JJ Grey & Mofro, Hobex, Jimbo Mathus, Maria Muldaur, The Lee Boys, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jim Dickinson, and Matt Abts of Gov't Mule. Olga has also performed with the Papa Leg Acoustic Duo in Italy for the past three years.
When she’s not performing, Olga juggles a host of other endeavors. She participated in a Martin Scorsese documentary on the blues, co-produced Jessie Mae Hemphill’s album Dare You To Do It Again, along with a film about Jessie Mae, who passed away in 2006. Additionally, Olga co-engineered Elvis Costello's Grammy nominated song, "Monkey to Man," in 2005. She founded the Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation in 2003, whose mission is to honor Jessie Mae’s memory by archiving music indigenous to the northern Mississippi region, as a means of preserving it for future generations. In addition to the JMH Foundation, Olga serves on the board of the Blues Foundation in Memphis, TN. Any free time Olga can nail down is devoted to making repairs to her family’s New Orleans home, which was damaged in Hurricane Katrina.
Olga’s music continues to evolve and push her to new creative heights, but always with a Southern twist, a veritable tip-of-the-hat to her blues roots.
“Music has been a journey for me, one that I continue to learn from,” she says. “I have been blessed to experience many things throughout my life, often with great intensity. You have to take the good with the bad, and then learn to just let it all go.”
And as she begins to sing, you just can’t help but groove to her beat.
Cody Dickinson - Bass, Drums, Guitar, keys, Washboard
Blues Babe (2003), Kiss Your Blues Away (2004), Now is the Time (2006) Whatever You Want (2011) North Mississippi Christmas (2012)
Whatever You Want (June 2011)
Olga and 219records has distribtuion with Redeye, USA.
Deck The Halls
Better in Some Way
Whatever You Want
They Want More
Birds of Sorrow
Just Take Your Time
It Comes and It Goes
Little is Known
Call Me When You Figure It Out
Isn't It Always for the Best?
O Christmas Tree
- Gotta Keep Moving
- Your Love Don't Work Like Mine
- I Won't Ask
- You Can't Keep A Good Girl Down
- For the Love of Music
- Is it So Wrong
- NOW IS THE TIME
- Remind Me Who I’m Talking To
- Call Me When You Figure It Out
- It Is What It Is
- Little Is Known
- Nothin' More to Say
- Whatever You Want
- Just Take Your Time
- ISN’T IT ALWAYS FOR THE BEST?
- Deck The Halls
FRENCH QUARTER FEST FOCUS: OLGA
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In 2000, Olga Wilhelmine Munding packed her car with water and an emergency aid kit. She was hea...
In 2000, Olga Wilhelmine Munding packed her car with water and an emergency aid kit. She was headed for the Hill Country. “I have a profound connection with North Mississippi,” she says. “It’s something that’s always lingering in my soul.”
Born in San Francisco, Munding meandered to New Orleans 12 years ago. Today, with four albums under her belt, she says it was the trip to meet blues woman Jessie Mae Hemphill that cemented her connection with Mississippi blues.
Ten years before Munding took her first trip to northern Mississippi, Hemphill had suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. Unable to play large shows anymore, she fell into obscurity. When Munding discovered Hemphill’s music, she wrote her and accepted her invitation to come stay in Senatobia.
“When we met, we felt a kinship,” says Munding. Hemphill shared her music with Munding, as well as her new home. When Hemphill showed her the trailer she used to live in, Munding cried. “I’d never seen anything like that before.”
Hemphill died in 2006. A decade after their first meeting, Munding has released four albums. She works with the HBO show Treme as Melissa Leo’s stand-in and has a short, The Statue, screening in film festivals. She rides in Muses and made a Jared Leto shoe (“WWJD: What Would Jared Leto do?”) and G.I. Joe shoe this year. Earlier this year, she released Whatever You Want, an album that paired her with fellow Hill Country enthusiast Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars.
In February, Munding successfully repatriated the recordings and film footage Alan Lomax made in Como, Mississippi back to Como, a tiny town next to Senatobia that’s produced more than its fair share of blues musicians. These historic recordings helped to shape musicologists’ notions of the blues, but they belong to Como as much as the world that was affected by them. She undertook the project with Alan Lomax’s daughter, and according to Munding, the project was the first repatriation of its kind. Jessie Mae would have approved.
Olga Wilhelmine plays French Quarter Festival on Sunday, April 15 at 1:15 p.m. on the BMI Songwriter Stage.
Olga and the Technicolor Mississippian
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OXFORD TOWN – “Blues Babe” and actress Olga Wilhelmine Munding (pictured here on the cover of her ne...OXFORD TOWN – “Blues Babe” and actress Olga Wilhelmine Munding (pictured here on the cover of her new CD “Whatever You Want”) and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars have teamed up and landed a gig at Como’s annual Christmas celebration, Christmas in Como, this Saturday evening (Dec. 10). Pages 8 and 11 in this week’s issue of Oxford Town have complete details of the upcoming classic holiday show being unwrapped Saturday evening just 39 miles from the Oxford Square. (December 8, 2011, Page 8, 11)
Review Fix Exclusive: Olga Wilhemine Interview: Broken Heart Inspired
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Hard work is something that isn’t new to the multi-talented Olga Wilhemine. An accomplished sing...
Hard work is something that isn’t new to the multi-talented Olga Wilhemine. An accomplished singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor, as well as a partial owner of recording label 219, loyalty to her dreams is a priority.
Unlike most artists, Wilhemine didn’t discover her voice in a church choir or strolling down the street humming a familiar song.
A broken heart did all the work for her.
After she discovered a neighbor’s dog had attacked and killed her pet rabbit, the only thing the toddler could do was cry and hum a tune that lead to writing a song.
Little did she know, that was the spark that ignited her ambition.
“I didn’t know what I was feeling as I child, but I can remember feeling great sorrow and pain,” Wilhemine said.
Raised by her mother, an Austrian-Native, the two would sing daily and listen to Austrian Folk music. Trained by her mother to sing and harmonize, the toddler caught on and perfected the craft of music.
With a new album available on iTunes, “Whatever You Want” and a new single, “Whatever You Want,” under just her first name, “Olga,” Wilhemine’s sound is calm and hopeful. Unlike most pop singers, Wilhemine’s style comes across as somewhat of a friend, with soulful and fierce, yet comforting lyrics. Her voice tells a story all it’s own- one that sounds as if it has been through just enough, to tell you how to deal with life and ways to get by.
“Many of the songs that I wrote are universal,” Wilhemine said. “A lot of the songs I wrote were from years ago. When people listen to my music, I want them to think from their heart and connect with themselves on a spiritually level, which encourages them to follow their heart and discover their own resolution during a hard time or problem they may be having in life.”
After three prior albums, “Blues Babes,” “Kiss your Baby Away” and “Now is the Time,” Wilhemine has claimed “Take Your Time” as her favorite one yet. With 14 soulful songs on the album, each one tells its own story and touches all eras of life. They all play off of different musical conventions as well, which makes it hard to place her in one category, but bluegrass, blues, pop and soul flavors are all there.
“I would have to say I would put my music in the category of pop,” says Olga. “But my music is rooted in with blues and country blues. Blues has a lot of soul.”
Wilhemine doesn’t share her current CD with any other artists but has a few musicians she’d love to share the stage with.
“Lady Hawk, Snoop Dog, Los Lobos, John Hyatt, The Roots, Mary J Blidge and Jill Scott,” she said.
Her music is very distinctive; Wilhemine isn’t your classic storyteller songwriter. She doesn’t want her music to be useless words. She rather her listeners have positive words that would have an effect on their lives. She is a deeper and more spiritual than most artists. The energy of her music puts you in a vibe to think and contemplate on taking your time with life. Her love songs are asexual and represent everyone.
“My music is distinctive because of the subject matter I write about. I tend to write more from a spiritual and emotional place. I definitely write from a more guttural and instinctual perspective, that’s why my songs are more blues based,” she said.
Olga’s is far from a simple country girl. She’s no amateur to the entertainment business, with four albums under her belt and countless features in films such as HBO’s “Treme,” “The Mechanic,” “Knucklehead,” she a is more than just a singer.
Aside from working in acting and music, Wilhemine is simple as apple pie. She just wants to “remain positive and happy.“ She wants the world to listen to her music with an open-mind.
“I just want people to main a positive attitude and try to find the beauty in everything,” Wilhemine says. “Even if it’s a broken sewer line or a first class ticket to Rome, just enjoy the moment and remember it.”
Olga, “Whatever You Want – featuring Cody Dickinson” (219 Records) 4 stars.
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?Olga, “Whatever You Want – featuring Cody Dickinson” (219 Records) 4 stars. By Kevin O’Hare, The...?Olga, “Whatever You Want – featuring Cody Dickinson” (219 Records) 4 stars.
By Kevin O’Hare, The Republican, ARTS section
Fans of artists like Shelby Lynne, Bonnie Raitt and the North Mississippi Allstars should find a lot to like about Olga, a sultry, bluesy powerhouse of a singer/guitarist who’s been around for a few years but certainly deserves much wider recognition.
The digital-only release “Whatever You Want,” features the North Mississippi Allstars’ drummer and multi-instrumentalist Cody Dickinson prominently and was recorded in Mississippi, the state that shaped Olga Wilhelmine Munding’s musical vision.
Born in San Francisco, she spent a lot of years in the South, and while these songs are rooted in the blues there’s an expansiveness here that stretches beyond those borders. Standouts like “Just Take Your Time,” and “Don’t Look Back,” have a definite Lynne feel, but Olga’s distinctive styling is at once familiar and completely refreshing.
The instrumentation throughout is also first-rate with notably fluid guitar runs in “Call me When You Figure it Out,” while other songs including the tasty lighter touches of “Birds of Sorrow,” and especially the more soulful, harmony-layered and hook-filled “Little is Known” sound like they were destined to be hits.
She’s had three previous albums. This one is must-listen, highly recommended.
For more information on the Internet go to: www.laolga.tumblr.com
Tracks to download: “Little is Known,” “Just Take Your Time.”
A Timeless Record: Whatever You Want by Olga (Feat. Cody Dickinson)
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Blubird Reviews Album Review: Olga (featuring Cody Dickinson) Whatever You Want Saturday, 23 Jul...
Album Review: Olga (featuring Cody Dickinson) Whatever You Want
Saturday, 23 July 2011 04:18
New Orleans blues singer Olga Wilhelmine Munding and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and Hill Country Revue have teamed up to write and perform a contemporary pop album with an 80's feel. Olga's voice is a smooth blues vocal which has been compared to Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks and the alter ego of Paul Westerberg, Grandpa Boy. She was classicly trained and later heavily influenced by Jessie Mae Hemphill. Olga has a long history of music recording as well as acting, and involvement with cultural celebrations in New Orleans, through the Krewe of Muses. She is a founding member of the Jessie Mae Hemphill foundation in New Orleans.
Cody Dickinson is the son of the late Jim Dickinson and brother of Luther Dickinson. Cody and Luther formed the North Mississippi Allstars (NMA) with bass player Chris Chew. Luther also has recently been on lead guitar with the Black Crowes, but often tours with NMA as well. Cody has been performing and writing music since he was a small child and has been crafting a drum style that is signature to the sounds of North Mississippi and historically reminiscent of the musicians during the era of the Civil War. His father, Jim Dickinson, was a blues piano player, a music producer, and has recorded with Alex Chilton among other legends in the field. Cody and Luther recorded a beautiful, historic and down right house rockin album in honor of their father called "Keys To The Kingdom" which was reviewed here.
The thread I'm following is the transformation of the roots blues that were planted and sown by RL Burnside, Otha Turner and Jim Dickinson himself. Olga and bands like NMA are not some type of revival; they are living blues legends now. I am fascinated to watch how they integrate their experience into contemporary music writing.
Olga has several albums prior to this new release that are clearly blues. But after the death of Cody's father and some personal transformations in Olga's life, the team decided that 'letting go' was an important process for them musically.
"Whatever You Want" is very different than their other works. It is smooth radio friendly pop and the refreshing drink that is serves will quench your thirst for a new twist on the blues again and again. This album will become part of your daily life as the arrangements are catchy, lyrics are wise and instrumentation is complex. It is a timeless record. Olga and Cody wrote all of these original songs. You will discover something new every time you listen.
The album opens with the easy breezy flow of the title track, Whatever You Want. It is uplifting, melodic, and inspiring, destined to be the radio hit.
They Want More changes the pace quickly toward a mysterious vibe. The recorder threads through the song with repeated lyrics as to not distract. The bridge and end picks up that distinctive NMA sound with some deep guitar licks.
My favorite song on the album is the third one, Call Me When You Figure It Out. I heard this for the first time when I was walking with my iPod and could have walked forever. What I love about it is Olga's voice is so well trained, that is doesn't have to stop at logical points within the song. She extends the lines but never oversings the song. There are elements of surprise in the phrasing just listening to her climb and return. My daughter is studying music and said she, "jumps the octaves and hangs out in high treble C!" There are some piano backup and keyboard effects that give the piece a rich texture and the guitar accents validate the raw southern rock sound at its base. Overall, it soars, as Cody's drums are precisely placed to tick away at the core of it, building appropriate tension and keeping the beat.
Just Take Your Time reminds me of Langhorn's Be Set Free and similar works. The video produced maps out a story of prioitizing what's important and is a nice introduction to Olga and her inviting style.
Birds of Sorrow has a Neville Brothers reggae vibe to me. We also hear a bit more grit from Olga that new listeners told me they find themselves craving from her. The lyrics are wise and able to be generalized to anyone, anywhere with any struggle they may have at anytime. It is this inclusiveness that seems inherent in who she is as a person, given the community works and foundations she's accomplished. There's trouble in life, but with trust and strength within yourself, you move on ~ to the groovy beat of your own journey.
It Comes And It Goes is catchy and ethereal. What is she talking about ? What is "it" ? Keep listening ... it's up to you to define.
Little Is Known is the perfect harmonious, dance-able, drive-able 80's pop song, if that is the sound they were after. The shaker, the hum of the bass line and deep drumming alongside the high backup sounding vocals all come together into a great production. Even the guitar accents and the closing chorus have a retro feel to them, but are folded into a contemporary sound.
Better In Someway is a somber link to the transition of letting go. A slower move toward a steady march, accompanied by a narrower range of sound to lead the path.
It Is What It Is has a technical, demonic groove to it that reminded me of the Hot Swing Jazz genre. I'm not surprised, this is New Orleans !
Nothing More To Say had a Stevie Nicks power to it. I've been a Nicks follower since I can remember. This is almost a power ballad.
Don't Look Back reminded me of the sound that the 10, 000 Maniacs had after Natalie Merchant left. A smoother mix focused on blending the instruments and vocals with a river of undercurrents in the background.
Time For Somebody New is the closing number that signs off with a definitive answer to getting a fresh start, taking care of yourself. Mid-song, Olga belts it out to deliver her message.
It's difficult to imagine that it was just Olga and Cody tinkering away at these songs. They are all somewhat different from each other, yet blend together in a great mix for the whole of the album. I hope they tour with this album, I think it would be great to hear Olga's entire catalog live and Cody's electric washboard is welcome in any town !
Olga, featuring Cody Dickinson – Whatever You Want (2011)
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Olga, featuring Cody Dickinson – Whatever You Want (2011) Something Else! By Nick Deriso I ca...Olga, featuring Cody Dickinson – Whatever You Want (2011)
Something Else! By Nick Deriso
I came in expecting blues grit, something kind of dangerous — after all, New Orleans singer Olga Wilhelmine Munding has been doing that for a while. She’s also a founding member of the Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation. And Whatever You Want features Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.
Forget all of that. I came out with a new-found appreciation for Olga’s darkly intriguing popcraft, and for Dickinson’s ability to put aside the deep-fried Southern rock licks he’s long favored on the guitar for something more in keeping with the popular music of their youth in the 1980s. You still hear a bit of Bonnie Raitt in Olga’s singing, but also now some Stevie Nicks.
Whatever You Want released on 219 Records via Redeye Distribution, was recorded at Black Wings Studio in Water Valley, Mississippi, with Olga and Dickinson playing all of the instruments. That, along with some concurrent heartbreak, gives the project an interior, very emotional center — despite its occasionally sunny sheen. Olga, who plays guitar and keyboards, was in the midst of a divorce. Dickinson, who also adds rhythm and keys, was going through a final illness with his father, the late legendary producer Jim Dickinson.
That gives the “Just Take Your Time,” a raw piece of power pop that would have pleased the Jim Dickinson-produced Alex Chilton, this added coloring. “Birds of Sorrow” recalls Olga’s New Orleans roots, with an Neville-ish, island-inspired rhythm — but its broader implications remain clear. There are dreamy, almost trance-like moments during several of the cuts — including “Take Your Time” (with a repeated “it is what it is” lyrical signature) and, especially, “Don’t Look Back” — that speak even more deeply to the period of mourning that Olga and Dickinson were enduring. “Nothing More To Say” and “Time for Somebody New” help complete a recording that bravely deals with passages, even while confidently moving away from the expected musical underpinnings for the duo.
Olga has come up with an inventive way to sell Whatever You Want at her shows: Printed dropcards containing the site and code information to download all the album art and music that are made out of recycled paper embedded with wildflower seeds. Once you are done with the card, you can bury it in the yard — and grow flowers.
Olga's Whatever You Want featuring Cody Dickinson
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Posted: Jun 01, 2011 Olga's Whatever You Want Out June 21, 2011 Singer/songwriter/guitarist Olga...Posted: Jun 01, 2011
Olga's Whatever You Want Out June 21, 2011
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Olga Wilhelmine Munding's latest album Whatever You Want will be released on June 21, 2011. Olga wrote Whatever You Want with Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.
Olga explained to me the genesis of this upcoming release: "It's definitely a departure from what either of us have done in the past. We recorded it in 2009 during the time that Jim (Dickinson) got sick and then passed, and I went through my divorce and now I'm finally ready to release it. We decided to do a more pop 80s sort of thing since we're both huge fans of that stuff. The tunes do retain a lot of soul though..."
Olga now lives in Memphis. She's a soulful musician and also serves as founder and president of the Jesse Mae Hemphill foundation. She also appreared in various television shows as well as acted in the New Orleans Jazz Film Festival winner--The Statue--in 2010. Whatever You Want will be released digitally on June 21 through 219 Records/Redeye Distribution. The album is dedicated to Jesse Mae Hemphill and Jim Dickinson.
Stay tuned for more Olga...
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Antimusic.com 08/30/2011 . • Singled Out: Olga's It Is What It Is (With Cody Dickinson of North M...Antimusic.com 08/30/2011
• Singled Out: Olga's It Is What It Is (With Cody Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars)
Today Olga tells us about "It Is What It Is" from her brand new album "Whatever You Want" which was written and recorded with Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars). Here is the story:
This is one of those songs that came all at once for me. Often with songs, the chorus or refrain comes to me first, in this case the melody and lyric "It is what it is, is what it is, one thing that I know now, it is what it is."
I was alone in my mom's house in New Orleans. The house had been empty for a couple years since Katrina and in real need of repair and work. I was at a point in my life where I really wanted to make a change and "re-boot" if you will, and offered to move back to New Orleans (from Memphis) and oversee the repairs. Because good help was few and far between at that time, I was doing a lot of the work myself. The house has hardwood floors; a natural reverb chamber! I was in a bit of a forlorn and reflective state of mind and as I wandered through the house, the lyric and melody came to me. The previous years had been rather challenging for me personally and professionally and I had experienced many disappointments, disillusions and heartaches. After going through that, one hopes to learn so that the lessons won't have to be repeated a second, third or however many times. I was determined to learn, let go and move on.
I sat down on the hard floor and picked up the guitar to figure out where the melody was on it. Somehow this was a bit symbolical in itself, as I was alone, sitting on a cold floor and realizing some hard truths about myself.
The lyrics came to me rather quickly, with all that in mind, and though the music is a bit haunting, the lyrics are actually quite positive. I like to write lyrics that are comprised of mini mantras of sorts. If something is to be stuck in your head, why not have a positive message attached to it? That way, you repeat it to yourself as you hum it, or as it rambles and echoes in your mind. Ideally, it will ultimately become internalized and provide a positive change within you. That's my goal. So in this case, I wrote this song to remind myself "I cannot change the past and I cannot always have my way, I take the good with the bad and just let it all fly away—It is what it is."
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!
Singer Returns to Mississippi Roots
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Singer Olga Munding returns to Mississippi She'll play Hernando Farmers Market today By Mark Jor...
Singer Olga Munding returns to Mississippi
She'll play Hernando Farmers Market today
By Mark Jordan
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Though she returns often -- as she will this weekend for a string of appearances promoting her just-released fourth CD, Whatever You Want -- it's been three years since singer-songwriter Olga Wilhelmine Munding, better known to music fans simply as Olga, called the Mid-South home.
After several years living in the Delta and Memphis, the San Francisco native, following a divorce from Como-based musician Jimbo Mathus, relocated to New Orleans, where she had first moved more than a decade ago.
"I was just ready to come back," says Munding, who will kickoff her latest return to the region by playing the Hernando Farmers Market this morning. "I just felt kind of stuck, needing a change. I still have ties in Mississippi and Memphis. I still have a house up there. I'm not gone. I'm just down here a lot."
Munding will also be in the area Monday, performing on Greenville television station WABG Channel 6's "Good Morning Mississippi;" during the lunch hour on Helena, Ark., radio station KFFA 1360 AM's "King Biscuit Time" program, and that night from 6 to 8 at the Hopson Commissary in Clarksdale.
Munding could never completely escape Mississippi even if she wanted to. It is where she found her musical identity. And it is where she returned to make Whatever You Want -- a record that, though it represents her furthest departure from the blues yet, has at its core the lessons she learned here.
"I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for the experience (of living in Mississippi), so I'm actually humbled and grateful for it," Munding says. "The thing about the blues is that it's not just a 1-4-5 chord progression. It's really experience and the feeling. It would be easy to sit down and play Memphis Minnie verbatim, but it's not easy to actually understand and know and feel it. I think the experience of living up there helped me understand that."
Munding started her musical career in San Francisco as a child prodigy playing piano and violin. By the time she was a teenager, however, she had set music aside and became more interested in theater. Returning to New Orleans has rekindled some of Munding's old passions: She has taken the violin back up and is heavily involved in acting again, with appearances in three upcoming feature films, including one co-starring Mickey Rourke.
In college in Boulder, Colo., Munding rediscovered her love of music as a deejay for the school radio station. A turning point came when she stumbled on the music of Jessie Mae Hemphill and other Mississippi hill country blues artists like Junior Kimbrough in the station's stacks.
"It wasn't old-fashioned sounding," Munding says of the music's immediate appeal. "It was very modern-sounding, Jessie Mae's especially."
Munding found kindred spirits in Hernando's North Mississippi Allstars when they came through Boulder on tour. She befriended the band, and at the urging of the band's drummer, Cody Dickinson, she soon moved down South where she became a part of the hill country scene and even a friend, protégé and legacy caretaker to Hemphill before her death in 2006.
Munding and Dickinson reunite on Whatever You Want, which is dedicated to Hemphill and Dickinson's father, the noted producer Jim Dickinson who passed away in 2009 just as they began working on the project.
Recording artist Olga brings blues to Hernando market
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By Henry Bailey Wednesday, July 13, 2011 The Hernando Farmers Market, a Saturday "experience" al...
By Henry Bailey
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The Hernando Farmers Market, a Saturday "experience" already reaping huge success among producers and the populace, is reaching out with music in a special concert event July 30 featuring blues guitarist-vocalist Olga Wilhelmine Munding.
The market, in its third season on the downtown square, starts at 8 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m. Munding will perform from 9 to 11 a.m.
"People have asked us for more music, and they love it when we have it," said Shelly Johnstone, Hernando director of community development. "We've had local musicians playing in the background before, but Munding's of the stature that we can call this a concert.
"She's just released a new album, and her story's real interesting," Johnstone said.
A San Francisco native, Munding's journey to the blues began with classical training as a child. Her parents, arrivals from from Innsbruck, Austria, encouraged her as she began writing songs on the piano at age 5.
She first tasted the blues, Jimi Hendrix style, in high school. In her early 20s, she received a guitar for Christmas and her course was set. Working as a radio disc jockey in Colorado, she discovered blues pioneer Jessie Mae Hemphill's recordings.
"At that point, I knew I had to move south," Munding said.
Her trek took her to New Orleans and later Mississippi, where she looked up guitarist Hemphill, one of the few women performing blues. The two soon discovered they shared the same birthday "a kinship for one another," Munding said. "She told me that first day that she thought Jesus sent me to her."
Munding's latest album release, Whatever You Want, was written with the North Mississippi Allstars' Cody Dickinson. It's dedicated to Hemphill, who died in 2006 at 83 and is buried in Senatobia, where a Mississippi Blues Trail marker lauds her life, and Dickinson's father, noted record producer, pianist and singer Jim Dickinson, who died in 2009.
The songs were recorded at Black Wings Studio in Water Valley, Miss., by Emmy-winner Winn McElroy. Amid all this, Munding heard from Cody Dickinson about concerts on Hernando's square, and a message to Karen Ott Mayer, the farmers market manager, helped seal a deal.
"She fell in love with the blues, and her work is such a compliment to the indigenous music here," Johnstone said. "We're real excited."
The Hernando Farmers Market was voted Mississippi's Favorite Farmers Market in 2010 by a popular vote in the American Farmland Trust contest. It features more than 50 vendors every Saturday selling fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, meat, eggs, goat milk soaps and lotions, breads, canned and preserved items, baked goods and other items.
"Having music helps further our idea that our market is an experience," said Johnstone. "People come here to linger, converse and enjoy walking in the shade of the big oak trees.
"It's not just a trip to pick up groceries," said Johnstone, who adds more music events are in the works.
For more information, see hernandoms-farmersmarket.com.
© 2011 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online
Olga and Cody's Mississippi Mojo
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WHATEVER YOU WANT by Olga featuring CODY DICKINSON Olga and Cody’s Mississippi mojo “Word...WHATEVER YOU WANT by Olga
featuring CODY DICKINSON
Olga and Cody’s Mississippi mojo
“Words of sorrow fly over my head, but I won’t
let them nest in my bed,” sings Olga on her
new album, Whatever You Want (219
Records), featuring Grammy-nominated North
Mississippi All-Star drummer, Cody Dickinson.
Released in June, Olga’s fourth album
combines elements of pop with her signature
bluesy sound. Olga (Wilhelmine, but often just
“Olga”), is a New Orleans-based actress, who
spent years in Clarksdale and Como studying
with blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill. One
listen and you hear all that Mississippi mojo
at work. – DELTA MAGAZINE
24 i JULY/AUGUST 2011
Olga - Whatever You Want
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With her dark and sultry voice leading the way, Olga Wilhelmine Munding is continuing her journey ...
With her dark and sultry voice leading the way, Olga Wilhelmine Munding is continuing her journey through music on her fourth album, Whatever You Want. Written with North Mississippi Allstars drummer Cody Dickinson, the album is far-removed from her trademark blues offerings, instead laid in pop rock fashion with nuanced blues lurking just beneath the song surface. Ever the multi-instrumentalist, Dickinson supplies the bulk of the musicality but without a doubt this is a vocally driven album and Olga may just be the heir apparent to pop rock pipes the likes of Stevie Nicks, Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt.
The album opens with title track “Whatever You Want”, rife with pop sensibility and melody bolstering the first taste of Olga’s unique vocal delivery. With backing synth, intermittent electric guitar riffs and Dickinson shining on drums, the song structure casts the vocals at the foreground. Clear foreshadowing for what the album holds. “Little Is Known” opens to jangle guitar that could have been ripped straight from a Men At Work tune. Though redundant to say, again Olga’s vocals command the foreground of this track. The electric riff work lays a foundation melody that carries the lyrical delivery, which is clear representation of Olga’s vocal prowess. “It is What it is” (this writer’s fave) switches from the pop ethos of the album to a torchy, down-tempo lounge tune. Opening to backing keys, Olga channels Amy Winehouse in a vamp style vocal delivery. This track not only shows just how sultry her voice can be but; shows a versatility of style and her comfort in doing so. To add to the lounge feel, the midpoint horn solo is noteworthy and appropriate.
No fledgling to music, this is simply Olga playing to her strengths. Her vocal delivery can go from demure to astonishing at the drop of a hat. And while singing the blues may be her forte, this album is proof that it is often faulty to pigeonhole within the bounds of music. The pop sensibility of the album suits her well, but then again I have serious reservations as to whether there is anything that Olga can’t sing. Maybe opera, but I’m not counting anything out yet… fourth album or not; this gal is just getting started.
by Chris West
CMJ New Music Report
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"Olga's soulful pillowy voice can freeze an audience in their seats." - CMJ New Music Report “Olg..."Olga's soulful pillowy voice can freeze an audience in their seats." - CMJ New Music Report
“Olga lays down a wonderful set of, often, haunting and melancholy blues that entice the listener into her ‘blues world’ in the same way that the Sirens lured the sailors in legend.”
-Mick Rainsford, Blues in Britain, UK
“Here the singer shines without question, nailing the tune the way few others could. It's a voice that doesn't need multiple octaves or one hand reaching to the sky to hit the listener's gut!”
-Jason MacNeil, AllMusicGuide.com
“Yes this singer songwriter certainly can play …and what's more her brand of personalized “blues” is captivating. Olga has a vocal style that is smooth, understated, articulate, clear and somber.”
-David Stoeckel ,South Australian Blues Society
“Olga has an authentic feel to the past masters with a nod towards the future of the blues.”
-Bob Silvestri, Best of West New York
“…the simplicity and immediacy of Olga’s music, setting herself out with passion and humbleness…an artist that has developed her own way to move and captivate us with her bittersweet blues.”
-Matteo Bossi, Il Blues Magazine, Italy
“Olga is truly a jewel of an artist. An Austrian girl turned country blues musician, she keeps the flame burning from a new angle. "
-Jackson Free Press, Mississippi
“Olga matches hypnotic guitar work with sexy alto singing that suggests Janis Joplin had she grown up in Mississippi hill country.”
- Memphis Commercial Appeal
“…a gentle, laid back affair where the lyrics and melody enter you with ease…”
-Northeast In Tune Magazine
“Now Is The Time strikes a chord in the heart.”
-Billtown Blues Association
"Keep an eye on Olga, she’s aiming to reinvent the blues for modern society, and so far, so good. "
-Low Budget Superheo Magazine
“Olga has been hanging around with the right people and it shows.”
-Brenda Lee Kozuch, Offbeat Magazine, New Orleans LA
“Olga establishes a unique sound that isn't comparable to any other artist.”
-Rosilyn Parashis , Memphis Mojo/BLUESPEAK.com
“If Bonnie Raitt hadn't surrendered long ago to the blandishments of Adult Contemporary Radio, and instead stuck closer to where she started, she would probably sound something like this. By which I mean to say, I'd far rather listen to Olga.”
- RAMBLES Clutural Arts Magazine
“…an entertaining slice of country blues, packed with style and flair, each entry has its own appeal.”
- The Masked Movie Snobs Bullpen
“A refreshing and melodic blues cd from a lady I’d love to see on stage here.”
-Marc Nolis, MazzMuikas Ezine, Belgium
"Now Is the Time, mixes polished originals with raw recordings of traditional tunes, and reaches points of pure trancendence. "
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Olga Munding Louisiana blues from a worldly soul Click the "music" section of Olga Munding's W...
Louisiana blues from a worldly soul
Click the "music" section of Olga Munding's Web site and listen to any of her songs, and it is easy to recognize her talents. Munding is a singer, songwriter, and actress in New Orleans, by way of San Francisco. Trained in the north Mississippi blues by "an old blues woman, Jessie Mae Hemphill," Munding uses music to tell her unique life story.
Munding's parents came to the United States from Innsbruck, Austria, in the late 1960s. What was supposed to be a short stay in America became a permanent relocation, and Munding was born and raised in San Francisco. She now considers New Orleans her home, after moving from the Bay Area more than a decade ago.
"I had the most profound feeling the first time I ever visited," Munding said of New Orleans, "that this was where I was supposed to be." That's a telling sentiment, considering how much of the world Munding saw as she grew up. "I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit my relatives in Austria and to travel around Europe many times since I was a child," she said. "I am American, but also Austrian. It's a special balance of two worlds, I think."
Munding brings that balance to her music. She writes music, sings songs, and plays shows locally and overseas. She recently finished a new album she hopes to release later in 2010. Listen to the sample recordings on her site and you will understand the comparisons she said she receives to blues legend Bonnie Raitt.
In addition to playing shows in and around New Orleans, Munding is involved in other programs throughout her community. "I belong to an all-woman Mardi Gras Krewe, called Krewe of Muses," she said. "I've been lucky to meet a wonderful array of strong, creative women through the Krewe." This group parades the Thursday night before Fat Tuesday and is known for throwing hand-decorated shoes to the crowd. "They are a hot commodity in this town!" Munding said.
Despite her travels and her time spent composing and performing music, Munding always makes time to participate in the Gallup Panel. "I am very outspoken with my thoughts and opinions, and have always been a voice especially for those who are unable to stand up for themselves," she said. "I have had this trait since I was a kid. Sometimes it has been good, sometimes bad, but I can't imagine being any other way."
Munding said participating in the Panel allows her to connect with others independent of the filtered media. "I don't believe we are getting the real news from the mainstream media," she said. "The Panel is real people connecting and sharing their thoughts."
Move Over Bonnie Raitt
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Move over Bonnie Raitt, there's a new kid in town. The name is Olga and she has all the right stuff ...Move over Bonnie Raitt, there's a new kid in town. The name is Olga and she has all the right stuff to make a name for herself in the music industry. Although she has been compared to the iconic giant, Bonnie Raitt, Olga does not let this comparison go to her head. She remains still hard-working and perfecting her craft to ensure that she leaves her own niche in the music industry.
This Memphis-based artist, who is from San Francisco and of Austrian descent, has completed three successful albums under her belt. We recently had a chance to review her EPK (Electronic Press Kit) on Sonicbids.com (Super Site for Online Resources Music Submission) and were happy to feature her in the online pages of Juniorscave.com
Isaac-Joseph: Happy Holidays! I must tell you that the music you are making is good. In fact, I found myself when listening to it tapping my toes and moving my head. Describe a little about your musical background:
Olga: Happy New Year! Thank you for your kind words! I grew up listening to a lot of classical music and started music lessons from an early age in classical music, in piano, violin and choir plus some composition.
Isaac-Joseph: Introduce the members of your band that play along side of you:
Olga: There are multiple musicians who play on my records, mostly the top of the crop in north Mississippi. One constant musician present is my husband, Jimbo Mathus. Many may know him as the primary music composer and band leader from his prior band, the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Others in the blues world know him from his Grammy winning work with Buddy Guy.
On my most recent album, I have Paul Taylor and Jack Yarber from Memphis, both very well known and respected musicians from there. Also from Mississippi, are Justin Showah, Lightnin' Malcolm, T. Bryan Ledford, and Max Williams. All of them play multiple instruments.
Isaac-Joseph: What originally drew you to wanting to play this type of music (Americana)?
Olga: It just seemed the direction it all went on its own. I did not set out really, but I did get into the blues early on and had great mentors. It was unusual for a young white girl to know much about the blues and I ran into a lot of brick walls. But you have to play what is in your heart, at least I do, so you put aside other people's opinions and focus on what is really on hand. It's tough but necessary.
Later on, I had the great honor of becoming a close friend of one of the last blues women around, Jessie Mae Hemphill. She was family to me and is still very present in my life even after her passing.
Isaac-Joseph: You have released a total of 3 albums. Since releasing the first album, what have you learned musically from that album (Blues Babe released in 2003) that has helped you with your other releases?
Olga: Well, I would like to think I am a better musician. I think I have a long way to go still. It's easy to look back in retrospective and think about all the things you wish you had done different. I try not to listen to old stuff too much, as they simply are no longer the same. I don't even play the songs the same anymore and some not at all.
Blues Babe is people's favorite out of my records because it is so raw and un-produced. It was largely ignored when it came out, but now it's somewhat of a collectible as it is out of print too.
Isaac-Joseph: Your newest effort (Now is the Time released in 2006) is now out. What has been some of the feedback and reaction from fans, family, friends, and critics about this new album?
Olga: I received a lot of reviews for this one, the majority positive. I was surprised! Always room to grow, again, there are things I look back on I wish I would have done different, but it is what it is, quirky and all.
Isaac-Joseph: What are you looking most forward to in 2008 musically?
Olga: My next project will be an EP I think. It will be very different from the rest as I have grown a lot and the music has evolved as it should. I am going to record in New Orleans hopefully and utilize some of those influences and connections.
I don't know when the release will be, as I have not recorded anything yet! But there is no pressure for me, as I do not have a major label behind me, or otherwise, so the album would be financed on my own. The industry is changing so much, I may just do digital only, we should know what's in store with the CD market within 6 months, I predict. Truth told; no one really buys CDs anymore, so it’s getting harder and harder to earn a living.
But musically, I look forward to getting better, trying new things and getting back into art.
Isaac-Joseph: In your opinion, what has been the biggest success for Olga in 2007?
Olga: Touring in Italy. The Italians love it! I do well over there and sell a lot of CDs. Plus I am learning Italian, so it's really great for me, simply great.
Isaac-Joseph: Your music makes me feel a variety of emotions. There are even times I feel very sexy about your lyrics. Is this something that you want to come across in your music? How do you feel about sex appeal in music?
Olga: Music, when played with the soul, is sexy in its purest form. You don't have to get naked to have that appeal if you are a really good musician, it's already there.
In pop music, since many of the artists really cannot sing, write or play an instrument, the powers that be have to overkill the sex part and sell it that way. They become a product.
No one has seen Alicia Keys naked or exploited, because she doesn't have to be, she is simply talented and knows her craft in the purest form. And yet she is really sexy!
Isaac-Joseph: What have been some feedbacks you have received from music executives about your music?
Olga: None really! I get wonderful feedback from reviewers like yourself! As far as music execs and the industry, including Blues and Americana markets, I am largely ignored.
Isaac-Joseph: You have an interesting heritage. What role do you feel that your heritage enhances the music you make?
Olga: I have no idea! The music of Austria is nothing like the music of Mississippi.
Isaac-Joseph: If you could collaborate with just one person in your musical career, who would it be and why?
Olga: I would like to do a record with Los Lobos. They are the coolest people in the world! We would have a lot of fun, no doubt.
Isaac-Joseph: What advice do you have for those who are just trying to get started in the music business?
Olga: Funny. I asked this question to Los Lobos about 10 years ago. They said, "don't do it!" What they meant, is that it is a hard and thankless job on the most part and earning a living is extremely difficult if possible at all. They were lucky with their hit in the late 80's and they stuck around 30 years and still hang in there.
I know how difficult it is for my husband, who had a multi-platinum band at one time. He's been in the business 20 years. Once the party is over, there is nothing left. So if you do it, you have to do it for the art. Make that the most important part of it all. Work on your own thing, don't copy anybody. Work on your craft. If you do all that somehow, you'll be able to eke out a living and get by, so you better really love it!
Isaac-Joseph: This is our Shout Out Time. Give props to anyone and everyone that matters the most to you. Olga: Thanks be to God.
Isaac-Joseph: Shameless Plugs: Reveal any new releases, tour dates, new press releases (other than us), or anything that you would like for us to know...
Olga: Please check out the JMH Foundation, set up on honor my late friend Jessie Mae Hemphill. It is a non-profit organization to preserve and archive north Mississippi music. We would appreciate your support. www.jmhemphill.org
Isaac-Joseph: Leave us with your final thoughts:
Olga: Thank you for taking the time to interview me! I get by with hearing from people like yourself...it makes the journey worthwhile!
Northeast In Tune Magazine
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It’s the music I like to listen to on long journeys – a gentle, laid back affair where the lyrics a... It’s the music I like to listen to on long journeys – a gentle, laid back affair where the lyrics and melody enter you with ease, the steady beat drives the song along and each instrument, be it a voice or guitar, seems to be playing with each other in mind. A female J.J Cale springs to mind, but there is more here than just a rework of someone else’s style.
A white San Franciscan of Austrian parentage, many of Olga’s previous reviewers have noted that with sounds of North Mississippi flowing so easily and with such authenticity you may be forgiven for thinking she had spent her life in the Hill Country and had only left it on touring duties. A view that is certainly hard to disagree with even after hearing just one song. Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald are among those Olga lists as her inspirations which, along with her close friendship with the recently deceased (see related information) Jessie Mae Hemphill, may provide some understanding as to how she attained such a genuine sound.
The songs are kept from delving into the repetitive by the many musical influences they are tinged with – from the slightly Latin feel of “Gotta Keep Moving” to the Motown-esque backing to “I Won’t Ask.” It is obvious throughout however that it is the blues that provides the basis for Olga’s sound, the sturdy roots from which the tree grows. This passion for the blues is none more evident than on standards such as “What’s the Matter with the Mill?” but it is the way in which Olga retains the simplicity and feel of the blues while experimenting and keeping the music fresh, that highlights her competence and song writing ability.
Her individual musical stamp is a subtle one that lets her influences shine through whilst avoiding the sound of a duplicate. If playing the blues is a lesson in keeping things simple then it is one lesson Olga seems to have mastered. When not playing solo (as she often does) Jimbo Mathus and house band Clarksdale Sound Machine provide very tight and rooted backing to Olga’s guitar and vocal parts but being classically trained in voice, violin and piano from a young age I would like to hear more of Olga on different instruments as well.
The latest album release from Olga – “Now is the Time” will not blow you away with amazing new sounds and techniques, but that is not what it is about. This is a mature and complete-feeling album – one for the road.
1. Jessie Mae Hemphill died July 22nd 2006 after an altercation from an ulcer.
2. “Now is the Time” is available from Olga’s website: www.laolga.com/merch.htm
3. ‘Olga’, or the English equivalent ‘Helga’ is a name used mainly in Eastern Europe. Derived from Old Norse heilagr - "holy", "blessed".
RAMBLES Cultural Arts Magazine
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Raised in San Francisco by Austrian parents, Olga -- in the fashion of a roots-music Cher -- goes on...Raised in San Francisco by Austrian parents, Olga -- in the fashion of a roots-music Cher -- goes only by her first name. (Her full name is Olga Wilhelmine Munding-Mathus, for those who want to know.) Backed by her husband Jimbo Mathus (of the Squirrel Nut Zippers) and the Clarksdale Sound Machine, she has released a winning collection of originals and traditionals with a -- broadly speaking -- blues sensibility, with occasional excursions into rock, folk and jazz-pop that neverfeel jarringly discordant.
If Bonnie Raitt hadn't surrendered long ago to the blandishments of Adult Contemporary Radio, and instead stuck closer to where she started, she would probably sound something like this. By which I mean to say, I'd far rather listen to Olga.
Inevitably, with her modestly eclectic approach, I like some songs more than I like others, but I don't dislike anything, either. Her vocal style is all earth and smoke, sultry and sexy but understated about it, a sound that feels born of dirt roads and urban nightclubs alike. None of this is country music, but her "Ain't It a Shame" -- not the 1950s Fats Domino hit -- in another arrangement would do some Nashville act proud.
Her lyrics are ably composed if thematically unadventurous, (by her own testimony) confessional songs about romance's up and downs. Mostly, the downs, which are always more interesting if you're somebody other than the one who's living them. Olga and Jimbo, who produce, set the songs in laid-back electric and acoustic arrangements that manage never to lapse into vapidity.
Here and there interrupting the originals are easygoing readings of roots standards: Memphis Jug Band's "Stealin,'" Memphis Minnie's "What's the Matter with the Mill?" (a duet with Mathus) and a closing piece cryptically titled "GDTRFB," which turns out to be the unmysterious "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad." If not for the ages, they do nicely for the moment.
by Jerome Clark_Rambles.NET_30 September 2006
Blues-Tinged Singer-Songwriter with Genuine Sensual Passion
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It feels like we’ve become a bit spoiled and blasé about female singer-songwriters lately, as if the...It feels like we’ve become a bit spoiled and blasé about female singer-songwriters lately, as if there is an endless supply and as one career sinks another is on the rise. It all means that it is ever more difficult for the good ones to register, which is a shame because it would be a crime against the blues if Olga’s NOW IS THE TIME passed by unnoticed. She may well be a San Franciscan of Austrian heritage (not your normal start in the blues) but living in new Orleans and Memphis, it could be argued that spiritually and musically, she has found the perfect home.
Olga struck up a not-so-unlikely, but extremely fortuitous friendship with the legendary Jessie Mae Hemphill (having got in contact they discovered they shared a birthday as well as a musical philosophy) and while Jessie Mae, Maria Muldaur, Los Lobos, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald and Memphis Minnie have all provided inspiration, if Olga is closest to anyone, it is the flame-haired genius Bonnie Raitt, and she is not over-flattered or over-hyped by being name-checked with Raitt.
There’s an understated completeness about NOW IS THE TIME , all the power of real feelings is there, it’s just that they are not swamped by wave after wave of theatrical over-emotion. Ain’t It A Shame and Can You Forgive Me show that Olga knows her way around a blues ballad, however she’s not some giddy schoolgirl crying over a crushed love. Ain’t It A Shame in particular is carried along by mature reflection. But undoubtedly the talking point of NOW IS THE TIME will be the sensual, seductive clothes she’s wrapped the blues in, What’s The Matter With The Mill may be skillfully rough and ready but the latent sexiness of Olga’s voice means that it hits home.
But it’s her passion for the blues that makes the difference for Olga, she has plunged into the genre with a will, I Won’t Ask and Take Your Rest Daddy are pure and undiluted. Like Raitt, Olga possesses an inherent and natural magnetism that opens up the blues and makes it accessible to all, and, as she slinks her way through the album, she demonstrates the power to make grown men’s eyes mist over.
The Masked Movie Snobs Bullpen
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Olga’s third album Now Is The Time is the first time that I have been able to hear this amazing, ...
Olga’s third album Now Is The Time is the first time that I have been able to hear this amazing, sexy guitar slinger and vocalist. From just one spin of this disk, I got a sense of nearly everything this musician is about; from her voice to her backing band, which includes husband Jimbo Mathus, you can feel the love for what she is committed to doing. This love comes shinning though on this powerful country blues recording.
The disk opens with the title track and from the rumble of the first drum roll you can tell that this one is going to be good. The band, which can expand to seven instruments, comes together well here in one of its simpler forms. The bridge is a wonderful example of country blues done right, everyone complements each other well throughout the entire disk. The funky bass and guitar work set the tone for the rest of the album. Even Olga’s vocals blend perfectly with the sound of the band, as if just another instrument.
“Weary” is a jumping blues boogie, driven to madness by the backbeat of Paul Taylor and Steve Malcolm, while Jimbo again shows his mastery of the guitar. The tune is cut from the mold of blues rockers Canned Heat; “Weary” has the same vibe as their “On The Road Again”. Definitely a jam you can play over again while cruising down a long, lonely highway. While “Ain’t It A Shame” is a slower tune with a rolling sound provided by a solid drum kick and a “washtub” bass thump. Here Jimbo shows his mastery of string instruments in general, by playing the mandolin as Olga’s passionate vocals drive home lyrics such as “such a shame/ two people so deep in love/ can’t act like grown-ups”.
“What’s The Matter with The Mill” and “Stealin’” have the band playing in a 1930’s country/blues style, very similar to the same simple sound that can be found on Jimbo’s new album, old scool hot wings. Olga’s strong vocals get playful in these tracks as Jimbo and company sing alongside her.
“I Won’t Ask” is a solid rocker that has a soul/English-blues sound to it. Certainly a tune that would have found a place on the Billboard Top-Ten in the mid 1960s, with its groovy guitar and Memphis soul bass. The mixing of Olga’s vocals is perfect on this track, with just the right amount of distortion and feedback.
The country/soul of “Can You Forgive Me” make this track one of my favorites, Olga’s sweet yet strong vocals display a passion that shakes the soul and hits your heart as she repeats the title and asks for forgiveness.
On “Fool” and “Gotta Keep Moving” the band gets into some solid blues/funk with deep bass runs and a solid shuffle on the drums. Jimbo’s guitar picking is outstanding as usual and is a highlight of the CD.
The CD closes with a track that puts the spotlight on Olga’s vocals and Jimbo’s picking, “GDTRFB” (going down the road feeling bad). The song is a wonderful example of the fact that at times less can be more; a perfect blend of two guitars and two voices. At the beginning and end of this track we get a sample of Miss Olga’s very sexy speaking voice, complete with a light southern accent.
Now Is The Time is an entertaining slice of country blues, packed with style and flair, each entry has its own appeal. The band’s performance is solid throughout, tackling every style effectively and with ease, while Olga’s strong, passionate vocals weave it all together. This being her third album makes now the time for me to run out and find the fist two and hear what I’ve been missing out on. Needless to say that Olga has got a new fan in…
A Unique Singer-Songwriter With Something to Say
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From all over the US, Olga brings us her timely and poignant songwriting and unique brand of blues. ...From all over the US, Olga brings us her timely and poignant songwriting and unique brand of blues. Her music is not strictly Blues, but it's in there nevertheless. With a soulful and sexy voice that brings memories of her mentor, Maria Muldaur and a hint of Peggy Lee, she has a timely style that blends a little Pop, Folk and Blues together. Her association with Jimbo Mathus, of Delta Recording in Clarksdale, MS has made the difference in recording technique and overall sound. Her new CD, "Now Is The Time", is a beautiful and quirky work that shines in a sea of wannabes that follow the trends.
Olga has spent time as a DJ in Colorado, singer in San Francisco, itinerant musician and singer in New Orleans, Memphis and the Mississippi Delta. She is close friends with Jessie Mae Hemphill and admires the late Junior Kimbrough, but her musical knowledge and her understated slide guitar and violin passages are her own. Jimbo Mathus plays guitar, mandolin, keys and lap steel on most cuts, and the association works for her musical vision in just the right way.
Only three songs are not original. There is a Memphis Minnie tune called "What's the Matter with the Mill" that is particularly nice. Her voice and style do that tune justice. I would definitely like to hear her do more with this type of material. "Stealin'" is just a great, simple production that keeps the original spirit of the song and Olga's sultry delivery is the secret here.
Her original material is really striking in its simplicity and attitude. Some very nice lyrics let her inner-self go free, like "Weary", Can You Forgive Me" and "Your Love Don't Work Like Mine". It's really a relief to hear her soothing voice, especially when so many are angst-ridden and angry. This makes for some realistic music coming from a unique singer-songwriter with something to say.
(©) 2006, Gary W. Miller
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Olga sounds as if she's gone to the Paul Westerberg or Grandpaboy school of recording, but it's a so...Olga sounds as if she's gone to the Paul Westerberg or Grandpaboy school of recording, but it's a sound that works to all her assets. "One Good Thing" starts this soulful blues journey that has her veering from a Delta blues format into something Janis Joplin would sink her teeth into. When she opts for a relaxing and melodic groove during "Gotta Put My Hands on You," she pulls it off strongly. But if the listener puts an imaginary bass line to the song in their head, it works infinitely better. Olga resembles a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Rickie Lee Jones on this tune, reaching at times for notes that don't come out pristinely. A fine effort comes along with the murky guitar riff and flute accenting the dark yet spiritual "My Baby Blue." Here the singer shines without question, nailing the tune the way few others could. It's a voice that doesn't need multiple octaves or one hand reaching to the sky to hit the listener's gut! "The Way We Were" veers into a folksy blues mix as Olga adds a tambourine to keep some sort of tempo flowing into an almost hypnotic format. The jazzy delivery on "Leaving So Soon" is also a highlight, with Olga working herself into a Cassandra Wilson -ish performance. A rocking tune comes along with the pretty and toe-tapping "I'm Off Your Sugar," with the performer making the most of a very strong melody. Perhaps the one track that stands apart from the others is the rough demo entitled "Ain't It True (My Love for You)" that has Olga sounding like she's singing in another room. It's a simple and yet quite alluring blues-folk song that she immerses herself into quickly. One miscue is the somber and insipid coffeehouse folk of "Mama's Boy," which relies on clichéd touches. She gives it a great send-off though, with "219 Train." Overall Olga has a powerful and inviting style and voice for this homemade album.
Olga. Not Only a Name...
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Olga. Not only a name, a face, a voice, a guitar... But an author as well. When a new voice come...Olga. Not only a name, a face, a voice, a guitar...
But an author as well.
When a new voice comes on the scene, it brings with it curiosities, hopes and feelings, not always so reinforced by the listening as it happens in this case with the two CDs of Olga that came out during last year. We didn’t know much about this young singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, nor the notes in the booklet were that informative, but that’s not a fault, first of all it prevent this review from becoming a biographical article and we can anyhow get some information through her website (www.laolga.com).
So for example we find out that she hails from San Francisco and has Austrian origins; she gradually got into blues and Jessie Mae Hemphill’s music in particular (she even was among the producers of the “Dare You To Do It Again” CD and DVD). But let’s come to the musical side, with the debut record, “Blues Babe” (219 Records 1002) recorded at her home, she now appears to reside in New Orleans, completely alone and it is a very personal combination of a songwriting vein with and a subtle north mississippian influence. Olga accompanies her clear and enchanting voice on several guitars and occasional washboard or a tambourine. The various elements of her background melt together effortlessly like in “One Good Thing” with her vocals sustained by a thin guitar line, or in the bare rhythms of “Oh Man I Picked The Wrong Brother Again”. The same thing can be said of “My Baby Blue” with the addition of a fife and “I See Through You” where we can appreciate her slide guitar. On the other hand there are some moments in which her singer/songwriter inclinations prevail, such as the soft ballad “Please Lay Me Down” and a song like “The Way We Were” that shows however her originality. Moreover Olga wrote all the songs on the CD except for one, being it the cover of “219 Train”. The impression is that of a sensitive artist following her own path.
The sophomore effort “Kiss Your Blues Away” (219 Records 1005) which came out last September and looks very promising since the title; it was recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi, partly at WROX studios and for the rest in their new location in the Alcazar Hotel again in Clarksdale. What makes it different from the previous one is the presence of other musicians among whom Jimbo Mathus himself, Garry Burnside, Kinney Kimbrough, Eric Deaton and Cedric Burnside thus providing a substantial contribution to the building of a sound that turns more towards the North Mississippi Hills, weaving together nicely with Olga’s music. The results deliver songs of strong impact as the title track, emblematic of the rhythm section fine work (Garry and Kinney) with Olga on electric guitar or the enthralling “There’ll Be Some Changes Done”. Extremely interesting are episodes like the cutting irony of“Remind Me Who I’m Talking To” with just Jimbo and Olga, both on slide guitar and Max Williams on a lap steel guitar, alongside two mellow ones more loose and folk oriented in which she plays alone on acoustic guitar, for instance “For The Love Of Music”, that though appealing seem to break a little bit the album uniformity. Even on this CD she is the author of all of the songs but the classic “You Don’t Know” and his cadenced accent with Jimbo playing drums, bass and guitar (!). To end our digression we have two albums that in different ways show the simplicity and immediacy of Olga’s music, setting herself out with passion and humbleness; an artist that has developed her own way to move and captivate us with her bittersweet blues.
File next to Bonnie Raitt
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How does a classically trained Austrian girl living in San Francisco get to be so rooted in Mississi...How does a classically trained Austrian girl living in San Francisco get to be so rooted in Mississippi blues? Olga, self-proclaimed “blues babe,” now calls Memphis home with her notoriously gifted husband, the snaggle-toothed genius Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers). Olgas latest CD, Now Is The Time, casually shifts from gritty and swamp-tinged (GDTRFB) to mainstream adult-contemporary (Gotta Keep Moving). Now Is The Time is almost presenting two Olgas -- the real blues babe and the one hoping for a radio hit. Of the two ends of the Olga spectrum, she is at her best when shes really feeling those whiskey-tinged storytelling blues that will never get mainstream airplay. Id rather listen to the twangy (GDTRFB) ten times (that stands for Going Down The Road Feelin Bad) than listen to Gotta Keep Moving again, but the latter will likely make her a star while the former (and better song) becomes todays equivalent of a B-side. All told, this is great stuff. File next to Bonnie Raitt. And keep an eye on Olga, she’s aiming to reinvent the blues for modern society, and so far, so good. (http://myspace.com/laolga) (Review date: July 7 2007)
I do mostly original songs, original blues and some old blues or country and spiritual covers. Not to sound cliche, but if you like Bonnie Raitt you will like Olga too (no, really it's true).
Gotta Put my hands on You
Isn't is Always for the best?
Now is the time
I'm off your sugar
There'll be some walkin' done
Going to catch my baby
For the love of music
Black Cat Bone
Just the devil in you
Gotta keep moving
basically, I can play for 2 1/2- 3 hours straight if need be
There are no upcoming dates at this time.