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.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.