Primary Instrument: Guitar
Carla Olson - Have Harmony, Will Travel - Busted Flat Records
by Thom Jurek
Over the last decade, singer and songwriter Carla Olson has kept busy as a record producer on both sides of the Atlantic, helming sessions by Robert Cray and Chubby Tavares, among others, as well as touring with her own band. Her return to recording is, at least on surface level, a curious one. Olson's desire to cut a duet record has been germinating for decades, but the time was never right until now. She rounded up a host of friends, bandmates, and some of her favorite singers for Have Harmony, Will Travel. Though there isn't a weak cut in bunch, there are some soaring highlights. Opener You Can Come Cryin' to Me with Juice Newton (and killer fuzzy lap steel from Cindy Cashdollar) is a case in point. Newton's high alto is still rich and full in the harmony and Olson gets right under the grain of the lyric. The pair also delivers a fine rendition of James Intveld's Stringin' Me On. Olson and Peter Case team on Del Shannon's Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow the Sun). The crackling energy and dramatic longing in the songwriter's lyric are beautifully delivered, and Case's lead guitar work stings, to boot. Gene Clark's She Don't Care About Time is a song close to Olson's heart, as Clark was the late songwriter's duet and recording partner. This reading with Richie Furay up front, fueled by Richard Podolor's gorgeous mandolin and former Byrd John York's electric 12-string, is near awe-inspiring. Olson understands the truth in a song no matter how obscure. She and Gary Myrick deliver Chris Jagger's moving Still Waters with passion and swagger. She and York prove excellent singing partners on both Paul Kennerley's tender, broken love song The First in Line and P.F. Sloan's pop/rock anthem, Upon a Painted Ocean. Case makes a return appearance in a slippery, breezy reading of Moby Grape's 8:05. Set closer Til the Rivers All Run Dry is a Pozo-Seco Singers nugget (written by Don Williams) delivered beautifully by Rob Waller up front with Olson bringing the harmony. It ends the set by seamlessly melding folk, rock, and country. Have Harmony, Will Travel is a welcome return for Olson, but that's not all. With its direct, kinetic production, compelling song choices, and inspired performances, it is a blueprint for future duet recordings.