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BLUES AND BEYOND, IL Blues Magazine, Italy

Olga. Not only a name, a face, a voice, a guitar...
But an author as well.

When a new voice comes on the scene, it brings with it curiosities, hopes and feelings, not always so reinforced by the listening as it happens in this case with the two CDs of Olga that came out during last year. We didn’t know much about this young singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, nor the notes in the booklet were that informative, but that’s not a fault, first of all it prevent this review from becoming a biographical article and we can anyhow get some information through her website (www.laolga.com).

So for example we find out that she hails from San Francisco and has Austrian origins; she gradually got into blues and Jessie Mae Hemphill’s music in particular (she even was among the producers of the “Dare You To Do It Again” CD and DVD). But let’s come to the musical side, with the debut record, “Blues Babe” (219 Records 1002) recorded at her home, she now appears to reside in New Orleans, completely alone and it is a very personal combination of a songwriting vein with and a subtle north mississippian influence. Olga accompanies her clear and enchanting voice on several guitars and occasional washboard or a tambourine. The various elements of her background melt together effortlessly like in “One Good Thing” with her vocals sustained by a thin guitar line, or in the bare rhythms of “Oh Man I Picked The Wrong Brother Again”. The same thing can be said of “My Baby Blue” with the addition of a fife and “I See Through You” where we can appreciate her slide guitar. On the other hand there are some moments in which her singer/songwriter inclinations prevail, such as the soft ballad “Please Lay Me Down” and a song like “The Way We Were” that shows however her originality. Moreover Olga wrote all the songs on the CD except for one, being it the cover of “219 Train”. The impression is that of a sensitive artist following her own path.

The sophomore effort “Kiss Your Blues Away” (219 Records 1005) which came out last September and looks very promising since the title; it was recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi, partly at WROX studios and for the rest in their new location in the Alcazar Hotel again in Clarksdale. What makes it different from the previous one is the presence of other musicians among whom Jimbo Mathus himself, Garry Burnside, Kinney Kimbrough, Eric Deaton and Cedric Burnside thus providing a substantial contribution to the building of a sound that turns more towards the North Mississippi Hills, weaving together nicely with Olga’s music. The results deliver songs of strong impact as the title track, emblematic of the rhythm section fine work (Garry and Kinney) with Olga on electric guitar or the enthralling “There’ll Be Some Changes Done”. Extremely interesting are episodes like the cutting irony of“Remind Me Who I’m Talking To” with just Jimbo and Olga, both on slide guitar and Max Williams on a lap steel guitar, alongside two mellow ones more loose and folk oriented in which she plays alone on acoustic guitar, for instance “For The Love Of Music”, that though appealing seem to break a little bit the album uniformity. Even on this CD she is the author of all of the songs but the classic “You Don’t Know” and his cadenced accent with Jimbo playing drums, bass and guitar (!). To end our digression we have two albums that in different ways show the simplicity and immediacy of Olga’s music, setting herself out with passion and humbleness; an artist that has developed her own way to move and captivate us with her bittersweet blues.

Matteo Bossi
(“Il Blues” magazine issue 89 – December 2004)


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