o's news jessie mae
219records TNR1007

Blueswax - February 2007

Olga is a very unique artist who is melding some interesting sounds together to create her own sound. The back of the disc says "North Mississippi Music," which is one way to classify it. The tracks were recorded at the Delta Recording Service in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and produced by Olga and Jimbo Mathus. Jimbo always has the old-time kinda touch on his projects and this one does also. Maybe it's the inclusion of instruments like the lap steel, washtub bass, mandolin, tuba, and various fruit shakers. Whatever it is, it works. Olga is originally from the San Francisco area and is now a part of the Northern Mississippi community. She had a large hand in helping Jessie Mae Hemphill through her last years and you can hear the influence on the recordings with the occasional Hemphill "Yeah!"

The music on Now Is The Time is not the juke house music of Hemphill, but more of a laid-back, groovy kinda vibin' music. The songwriting is strong and the sounds are fresh. The album starts off with a marching snare drum on the title track. The next track has great rhythmic vocals and echoes of the lap steel guitar for "Your Love Don't Work Like Mine." "Weary" gets the funk of a juke groove in a yellow Sixties night. The smooth sailing of "Ain't It A Shame" eases down the gentle waters of a steady rolling river. Mathus and Olga have a little fun goin' back and forth on vocals on "What's The Matter With The Mill." Tain't no good when you cain't get no grindin' cause the mill done broke down! A Northern Mississippi drumbeat conjures up "I Won't Ask," then the guitar drops right in for Olga to bring her voice out. The last track is title "GDTRFB"; most folks can think about it and put together the classic "Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad." This song is done with just Olga and Jimbo each on guitar and vocals. They complement each other very well.

The band on the disc is excellent and very well seasoned. Paul Taylor takes on multiple tasks from drums, bass, washtub, cow bell, mandolin, egg shaker, lap steel, and who knows what else he might have used for percussion. Taylor is always busy with many different projects and is never lacking an original take on a project while adding his own twist.

Olga brings Delta Blues music to a modern vein while keeping the roots in the pot to stew. She is not trying to duplicate what's been done, but adds onto a rich legacy of music from the very fertile region. This disc does a very good job of combining many different, older sounds and giving them a face lift. Olga is preserving and continuing a great tradition her own way.

-Kyle M. Palarino is a contributing editor at BluesWax

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