Have Harmony, Will Travel 2023
Country-rock doyenne carries on riding – graceful and rebellious, and with kindred spirits in tow – towards the glory of timelessness.
It’s hard to believe but this lady’s individual discography started only in 1987 – which seemed to happen rather not long ago, even though almost four decades have passed since then – because Carla Olson’s presence on the Americana scene is so constant and firm as to suggest she’s been there forever. And indeed, the Texan’s influence affected quite a few of her fellow musicians, including such luminaries as Bob Dylan and Mick Taylor – and, of course, Gene Clarke with whom Carla laid down “So Rebellious A Lover” that’s a bit illogically considered her solo debut. As a result, nobody was surprised by Olson’s propensity for duets albums – and she issued a fair share of those, recorded both in studio and on stage, the last, “Night Comes Falling” with Stephen McCarthy, released as late as 2022 – yet when “Have Harmony, Will Travel” launched an entire run of collaborative efforts in 2013, fans had all the rights to feel shocked, because she switched from an occasional cover to a full-on interpretational mode.
However, before now, the sophomore installment of the series featured, alongside borrowed gems, a piece Ms Olson co-penned with Percy Sledge, and its third chapter finds her compose in the company of Allan Clarke – presenting their shimmering epic “It Makes Me Cry” with THE HOLLIES’ former frontman and the sweet ‘n’ twangy “A Love That Never Blooms” with Shawn Barton Vach, while Laurence Juber’s licks and lines elevate the two numbers ever more – as part of the “Other Voices” section of this platter. But the closing triplet – titled “Knights In Tarnished Armor” to show how the circle can be unbroken – captures Carla at one of her first concerts with Gene, in Nashville, revealing a couple of their fresh cuts, the velveteen “Gypsy Rider” and “Del Gato” whose weave of pining vocals is vibrant, as well as THE BYRDS’ “Set You Free This Time” which was softened enough to turn into a gorgeous ballad. Still, mellow mood doesn’t reign o’er the septuagenarian as, instead of dipping her toes in British rock classics, she’s rushing into the rumble of “Street Fighting Man” and, especially impressive, into the aggro of “I Can See For Miles” – fiercely stacking familiar lyrics and attacking electric six strings on the brace of perennials, yet delegating lead passages to, respectively, Jake Andrews and Gary Myrick and, thus, emphasizing the “Guitars Guitars Guitars” label of the album’s initial segment.
All of it is set in motion with the chanteuse’s groovy, infectious takes on BROKEN HOMES’ “In Another Land” and ZACHARY THAKS’ “Face To Face” – the former highlighted by Craig Ross and Jimmy Ashhurst’s fretboard-tinging interplay with Skip Edwards’ Hammond, and the latter, which could be a great opener but is slyly given a second place, by Eric Johnson’s rockabilly-embracing jive – whereas the handclaps-propelled “Lead Me” sees the lady cut the rug with her old recording partner Todd Wolfe adding bluegrass-like flourishes to the track by Olson’s TEXTONES colleague Joe Read. She’s not averse to step back and, together with the recently departed Gregg Sutton, provide support to Harvey Shield’s mellifluous reading of THE REFLECTIONS’ “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” or bolster the also-deceased B.J. Thomas’ warble on “Cool Water” – and, between these two songs, paints Tammy to contrast, and resonate against, Robert Rex Waller Jr’s George on HAZELDINE’s “Stronger” that Myrick’s lap steel renders extremely poignant.
With Carla Olson as a traveling companion, no journey is too long, because her music makes time itself stand and deliver.