Geoff Oelsner
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Geoff Oelsner

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"Geoff Oelsner's "Morning Branches""

Geoff Oelsner's "Morning Branches"
CD Review by Emily Kaitz


If there's an award for Most Eclectic Local Album of the Year and Possibly Even the Decade, it will surely go to Geoff Oelsner for his new release, "Morning Branches," which includes songs about cultural inequities such as homelessness, childhood games and their application in later life, the Berlin Wall compared to walls of incommunication, menopausal women, Native American spirituality, and yes, even a love song or two as well as several poems.

The production is also widely varied - there is the unadorned informality of Geoff Oelsner, LCSW's Dream and the theatrical pandemonium of Mad Tom's Song. And there are some genuine folk songs delivered in Geoff's engaging resonant baritone and liberally sprinkled with tasty acoustic instruments and harmony. Two of these songs, My Shady and Borderguards, I would put right up there with the best of Joan Baez or Peter, Paul & Mary.

I have loved you among these green hills where we live
We have wandered their hollers and ridges
Twining our gazes and twinning our limbs
as we lay in the forest in springtime.

Oh my shady we'll be one again
When you half-hear the hymns on the wind
whisper down from the crown of the hill
and the sound of the brown whipporwill
resound through our place in the glade
where we lay in the evergreen shade.

--My Shady

More than those of most singer-songwriters, Geoff Oelsner's lyrics read as poetry on the printed page, not surprising since he has been writing both poetry and songs since he was a teenager over 35 years ago. Although he has published his poems before, this is the first CD of his music. Oelsner, who once told me that he considers himself "a happy hand-puppet of the artistic process," often gets song ideas, and even entire songs, from his dreams. For many of us songwriters, inspiration occasionally comes like a magical bolt from the blue, a gift from the gods or the subconscious mind, where all we have to do is sit there and get it down on paper; where we feel we are merely the vehicle for some larger, creative spirit. Geoff Oelsner is especially attuned to this phenomenon and tries to honor it and be faithful to it when it occurs.

On the album Geoff sings and plays guitar, harmonica, mountain dulcimer and harmonium; his wife Leslie contributes harmony on many of the songs and "harassment" on one. Additional musicians include Donna Henschell on harmony & fiddle, Greg Salerno on guitar, Nick Masullo on harmony, Keith Grimwood and me on bass, and recording engineer and producer Kelly Mulhollan on about ten different instruments.

My favorite song is the one about the meth addict up on the mountain losing touch with reality and buiding up to his own demise. Black Mountain Breakdown is not a light-hearted song, yet it is utterly beautiful and passionate and makes me feel like I've done meth myself, even though it was not one of the drugs I ever tried.

By the light of a bare bulb and a butt-naked moon
I tie off my arm and I heat up that spoon
And I shoot up that crank, Lord, I'm shooting to kill
All this pain in my heart, but it keeps hurting still
on top of Black Mountain.
--Black Mountain Breakdown

Part of the brilliance comes from collaborator Kelly Mulhollan, who is as proud of this project as any of his own. On Black Mountain Breakdown, Mulhollan's banjo and harmony vocal evoke rural Appalachia, while the undercurrent of his pump organ foretells impending doom. On Mad Tom's Song (in which Geoff vocally and musically interpreted lyrics by an anonymous 17th century poet believed to have been a former inmate of the English asylum, Bedlam) Kelly calls up the full array of his sound effects genius with performances on bass drum, bells, brushes, pump organ, and "ghosts," which are essentially the phantom-like reverb tracks of missing recorders. This same technique was used stunningly on a former project of Mulhollan's, Nick Masullo's "Some Kind of Sign," on the song Mighty Fine Line, although in that case it was the reverb tracks of missing electric guitars.

Geoff Oelsner's CD concludes with The Sacred Hoop, a series of brutal reflections on years of human cruelty, each followed with an optimistic plea for healing and wholeness. Dulcimer, banjo, fiddle, pump organ and recorders intertwine behind the words in a tapestry as rich as the diverse groups described in the song:

O the Sacred Hoop of red and white
of yellow and of brown
lies in our hands to reunite
to bind this world around
old Black Elk looked from then to now
and he saw our common goal:
to make our way to the joyful day
when the Sacred Hoop is whole.

--The Sacred Hoop

Geoff Oelsner's vision of hope and spiritual growth which permeates the entire album is perhaps most persuasive in this epic of nearly 7 minutes duration. "Morning Branches" also features an exceptionally beautiful jacket design by David Tucker, with reproductions of two paintings by Robert Sudlow and one by Red Star.

Geoff will celebrate the release of his debut CD the evening of Friday, May 14 at 7 pm in the Parish Hall of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 224 N. East Ave. in Fayetteville, with guest appearances by Leslie Oelsner, Kelly Mulhollan, Donna Henschell, John Ray, Anita Schnee, Greg Salerno, Nick Masullo and myself. All proceeds from sales of the CD and from Geoff's performances go to the Seven Hills Homeless Shelter. The CD will also be available at Ozark Natural Foods, The Gallery at Heartwood, and on the internet at cdbaby.com and amazon.com.






- The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas


""Morning Branches, the New CD""

"Morning Branches", the New CD from Geoff Oelsner
by Emily Kaitz

Geoff Oelsner, poet, singer-songwriter, psychotherapist and collector of unusual instruments like the shruti box from India, has released his appropriately esoteric and remarkable first CD, "Morning Branches," an ambitious project of 14 original songs and 3 poems, recorded and produced by Kelly Mulhollan. The depth, breadth, and sophistication embodied in both its writing and production far exceed the level of most debut albums. But Geoff Oelsner is no novice, having written and performed songs and poetry of his own for close to 40 years.

Some of the lyrics and most of the music of the title song came to Geoff in a dream, which is not an uncommon occurrence in his creative process.

I'm going up on the morning branches
I'm going up in the dawn of dew
I'm going up to the land of Beulah
I'm going up those morning branches to my Lord.

They say the sun's a mighty magnet
that pulls the branches up by day
They say the moon's a mighty flagon
We're gonna drink that wine all night and praise all day.

--Morning Branches

Geoff's bluesy finger-picking on guitar and the warm blend of his voice with his wife Leslie's call to mind the simplicity of old-fashioned Southern gospel music, in a song which bridges the natural world and the world of the spirit.

Longtime friend Nick Masullo describes the songs on Geoff's album as "an interesting mix of the personal with social commentary." A good example of the latter is the rousing "Double World," a study in contrasts between life in the Western world and the Third World.

One world's got the money, the other's got the soul
One world lives on Wall Street, the other's on the dole
One world's got the sun, the other's got the rain
We've got to live as one or we're going to run right down the drain.

I've been thinking we're living in a double climate
I've been thinking we're living in a double world.

--Double World

With the additions of vocal harmony, bass, banjo and mandolin to Geoff's vocal, guitar and harmonica, the song is a compelling invitation to positive social change and global equality.

Geoff's song "Scissors, Paper and Stone" comes as close as anything in his body of work to the seamless integration of music and spoken word. Geoff was inspired by a local performance of Michigan-based singer-songwriter Annie Gallup, who excels at this style. The juxtaposition of storytelling with the return to a recognizable sung chorus sets up an appealing dichotomy which draws in the listener.

(chorus) Scissors cut paper, stone breaks them apart
But slapped under paper, that old stone's in the dark
We'd play on together, count to 3, show your hand
My brother and me, we'd keep that game going,
Scissors, paper and stone.

--Scissors, Paper and Stone

The first story interlude recounts the intensity of the game Scissors, Paper and Stone as played between Geoff and his brother as children in the back seat of the family car on a trip; the second interlude describes another game of great intensity also played out in the back seat of a car by Geoff and a high school sweetheart who rejects him at a crucial moment.

Geoff is committed to improving the plight of the homeless, and donates all the proceeds from his performances and CD sales to Seven Hills Homeless Shelter. He also has one song on the album, "Homeless Sister," which was based on a newspaper article and deals with the issue directly.

Just an old woman living out on the street,
like so many others with no food to eat
except scraps from the dumpster, undone and unknown
in Indianapolis without a home.

--Homeless Sister

Geoff Oelsner is a compassionate and observant chronicler of our world and our society. He celebrates the release of "Morning Branches" Friday, May 14 at 7 pm in the Parish Hall of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 224 N. East Avenue in Fayetteville, with special guest musicians Leslie Oelsner, Nick Masullo, Kelly Mulhollan, Donna Henschell, Emily Kaitz, Greg Salerno, John Ray and Anita Schnee. The requested $10 donation will benefit Seven Hills Homeless Shelter. There will be food at the event. "Morning Branches" is available at this concert, and at Ozark Natural Foods, cdbaby.com and amazon.com.









- Fayetteville Free Weekly


"Review by German DJ"

Geoff Oelsner : Mad Tom's Song -CD : Morning Branches - Geoff Oelsner/Muggodoth Music - excellent folk-roots variety with an ATTITUDE:
*100% of the proceeds from the sale of the CD and all of Geoff Oelsner's live performances go to the Seven Hills Homeless Shelter in Fayetteville, AR, USA, -- http://www.sevenhillsshelter.org --and to other organizations
that reduce suffering and improve the quality of our lives.* - the NEW
SPIRIT!!!
Lord Litter's Radioshow
shows broad/webcasted at:
http://www.CyberStormRadio.com
http://www.RadioMarabu.de
Jolly Roger Radio

LordLitter@LordLitter.de
- Lord Litter, German radio and cyber DJ


"Eddie Russell, Texas DJ Review"


Thanks so much for sending your most excellent ' Morning
Branches ' CD.......and sorry it took so long to get back with you.......as I enjoyed it so much that I took my time and only reviewed 2 or 3 songs each
day . I receive lots of top class music so its always a thrill to say that you are as good as it gets in my opinion.....plus your album is so filled with variety . I'll sure be airing on my shows with a long shelf life...and if interested, below is a handpicked list of global radio DJ friends...whom
you can send to as well. Feel free to use my references
and best of luck with this fine work of art.
Eddie Russell
Country Eastern / Outlaw For Peace
http://www.LordLitter.de/rsn
drussell@wcnet.net

- Eddie Russell--Peace Radio Show


"North Little Rock Library"

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


This note is to thank you for the reference on Geoff Oelsner. His performance here at the Library was just great. We had a small crowd; but, they really enjoyed his program thoroughly.

Geoff has a winsome ease with people. He is a very
personable entertainer. His broad range of performance [poetry and music] was a real
plus, most especially his introduction of new
and unusual instruments such as the Shruti Box
and the Harmonium. He very generously donated
his book and CD to the library for our collection.

I join you in recommending this performer to other libraries.

Appreciatively,

Ann-Marie



- Ann-Marie LeBlanc, Head Librarian


"Ozark Poet's and Writer's Collective"


Geoff Oelsner and Friends featured on Tuesday

By Ginny Masullo
For 40 years Geoff Oelsner has been recording his visions, musings, and dreams, the stuff that poetry and music are made of. In his latest book of poetry, Native Joy, Oelsner leads his readers though various territories of the heart and mind. This lifelong collection includes memories of his boyhood, love poems, family poems, and poems about significant men and teachers. Oelsner moves the reader through wider horizons  with poems that convey a strong love of the Ozarks, and poems about matters of the spirit. And he does not flinch from addressing what he calls matters of "hard Karmic weather" such as war, homelessness and poverty.
Oelsner also has a newly released CD of original songs, Morning Branches. Because his songs are lyric poems, the lyrics are also included in a section of Native Joy. Several of Olesner's songs have a rich and timeless sound with hard hitting lines and choruses that stay with you long after the song has played. 

Double World
One worlds got the money, the other's got the soul.
One world lives on Wall Street, the others on the dole.
One world's got the sun, the other's got the rain.
We've got to live as one or we're going to run right down the drain.

Chorus:
I've been thinking we're living in a double climate.
I've been thinking we're living in a double world.
I've been thinking we're living in a double climate.
I've been thinking we're living in a double world.

Big church getting fat, saving the poor man's sin. . .
His wife keeps having babies and their kids are getting thin.
Priest's hand on my thigh big Church in a mess.
If it want to get right with I and I, big Church had best confess.

Chorus
First World gets the cash, Third World got to carry.
Struggling along behind, justice is secondary.
Poor man gets the backache, rich man gets the tan.
We've got to share together or end up in the recycle bin.

Chorus
One world's got the condos, the other's got the soul.
One world's on the mountain, the other's in the hole.
One world got the gloss, the other's got the stain.
One world takes the loss, the other's got the gain.


Oelsner will perform both poetry and music at the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective monthly reading at 7 p.m. Tuesday, in the beer garden at the Powerhouse. He will be joined by his wife Leslie and Kelly Mulholan of Still on the Hill.
- Ginny Masullo


Discography

My CD is Morning Branches (Oasis, 2004).
It's about 70 minutes long.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

My musical sensibilities spring from silence, from inwardly heard words and melodies, and
secondarily from influences as diverse as
Turlough O'Carolan, Bessie Jones, the great
modern Scottish bard/player Robin Williamson,
and Bob Dylan.
In recent years, an increasing number of my songs
have come to me in dreams. My wife and I have
been gigging around Fayetteville, Arkansas for
25 years. I love to do streetsinging, benefits,
house concerts, and performances at libraries
and schools and churches. Lots of the time I
read my poetry, accompanied by harmonium or
an Indian instrument called the shruti box.
Leslie & I enjoy singing acapella numbers, too.
We hope to make a joyful noise and to offer folks
something real and affectionate and downhome.