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David Olney

One Tough Town

David Olney can probably thank his irascible nature for keeping him from being a much bigger presence on the national roots-music scene. A respected contemporary and drinking buddy of Townes Van Zandt — check out his "Suicide Kid" — he's often mentioned as a songwriter's songwriter. Olney stands out like a jalapeño in a bowl of vanilla pudding in Nashville, where he lives, and throughout an 18-album career has stubbornly gone his own way, making brilliant, unheralded albums as artists from Linda Ronstadt to bluegrass king Del McCoury record his songs.

One Tough Town, a brilliant sampling of American music from blues and rockabilly to New Orleans swing and noir folk, adds another top-notch effort to a prolific string of fine records that began with 2000's Omar's Blues in 2000. "Sweet Poison" is a shot of rockabilly so stout it should make most of the current crop of pompadoured fakers sell their instruments and go back to 40-hour weeks at Burger King. Macabre Dixieland slinker "Who's the Dummy Now?" features a ventriloquist's dummy setting his master straight with all the viciousness of Chucky meeting Mack the Knife: "Truth is, pal, you're nothin' but dead weight / You' bout as funny as a funeral home / I'd be better off alone / I'm what sells the tickets at the gate." One Tough Town makes a fine starting point for working backward through Olney's catalog and discovering a true genius of American song.

 
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