David Olney & Anana Kaye (from the album Whispers and Sighs on Schoolkids Records) (by Joe Burcaw)
Folk songwriter David Olney may not be a household name but his songs have been recorded and performed by well-known names such as Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle, just to name a few. The music industry lost another good one on January 18, 2020 when David Olney passed away suddenly while on stage, from a heart attack, immediately after performing a tune at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Florida. His latest release, Whispers and Sighs, became his swan song recording with collaborations by the up-and-coming eastern European musical couple, Anana Kaye and Irakli Gabriel.
These songs, in an eerie way, seem to foreshadow David Olney’s flight to the afterlife, or whatever system you happen to follow from here to there. That brings me to the off-the-review topic of premonitions and self-fulfilling prophecies. Some of the subject matter on Whispers and Sighsdeals with saying goodbye, or sending messages to a loved one from another realm. Johnny Cash recorded an album of covers, one of which was Trent Reznor’s “Hurt”. The video was very dark and focused on Cash’s frail physical state. It was, in a way, showing us this vulnerable state of being moments before making a forever exit. Every time I see that video I get choked up by the haunting imagery. Reznor has gone on record stating Johnny’s version is better than the original, and I agree. David Olney has certainly taped into a source greater than all of us when writing this material, but was he, on some level, making peace with his impending fate? I digress, back to the review.
‘My Favorite Goodbye’ hints at being a somber love song that eschews happy go lucky, lovey-dovey lyrics, delving right into the shadowy territory of inevitable departure. Was this meant for a loved one to hear after the fact? ‘Time takes everything but love’…. it sure seems like a message to me. Olney’s somewhat pitchy vocals give us a sense of imperfection that I appreciate so much in this age of auto-tuned, sterile mechanics. He wasn’t afraid to show this side in order to get the right performance to cut through. I highly recommend listening to this track with the lights off and candles lit. ‘My Last Dream of You’ highlights the strength and power of Anana Kaye’s vocal style, very reminiscent of early Kate Bush (pre-Running Up That Hill) that creates a sort of interpretive dance movement sensation throughout your body. I was literally taken on a mystical journey when listening to this beautiful song. Music is so incredibly powerful, and Anana Kaye’s talent of holding the listener steady for the complete 3:52 shows how mesmerizing and trance- inducing her voice is. I hit repeat many times for this beauty. Finally, ‘Lie to Me, Angel” is a great up-tempo Rocker featuring a classically influenced 16-bar piano solo which hits you out of the blue. I was waiting for the guitar solo to kick in at this point but it never happened, and that’s hip. Put aside the lyrics and pay close attention to the ebb and flow of the instrumentation, fuzz bass, crunchy guitars, and a Charles Dickens’ influenced voice ramblings all the way to the finish line in ‘A Christmas Carol’ sort of way. It saddens me that David will not be able to reap the benefits of his labors but hopefully Anana and company will do the music justice and do their best assisting in the promotion of this special album. It would have been nice to see this project performed live, but then again, some things were meant to be left untouched. Here’s to you David Olney as we raise a toast in your memory and in the wonderful body of work you’ve amassed in this lifetime as we whisper and sigh. (by Joe Burcaw)
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