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David Olney

When the Deal Goes Down – 2014 (Deadbeet)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by David Olney

Few would ever conceptualize plot lines like these, much less know how to integrate it all together. So suffice it to say that only an artist as inspired as David Olney might possess the singular savvy that envisions the Greek god Sisyphus as a poor Indiana farmer back in the 1930s. Likewise, not too many songwriters go so far out on a limb as to write a tune voicing the observations of a fly on the wall whose witnessing a dialogue between the God and Satan during a poker game no less. Seriously!

Then again, leave it to Olney's outsized imagination to parlay those scenarios and more, resulting in an album boasting a baker's dozen worth of hard luck tales and stories flush with weathered rumination. These are songs that skim the rich top soil of arcane American music while still striking a contemporary chord. A sturdy blend of elegant ballads, turgid rumblings and added elements of blues, roots and even a bit of vaudeville, "When the Deal Goes Down" is not only one of Olney's best offerings to date - and that alone says a lot, considering a resume that stretches back some 30 years - but also an extraordinary hybrid of sounds and styles.

Ultimately, this album adds up as a real stand out, not only when it comes to a superb set of songs, but also as a work that boasts ongoing intrigue. Be advised not to settle for a cursory listen; this is, after all, an effort that provides potential for repeated revelations each time out. It's a reflection of Olney's special pedigree that he's not only able to pull all these intriguing ideas together, but also make the melodies so memorable in the process. Indeed, every deal should go down as well as this.