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Carla Olson and Todd Wolfe

The Hidden Hills Sessions – 2019 (Red Parlor)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Carla Olson and Todd Wolfe

Carla Olson and Todd Wolfe's "The Hidden Hills Sessions" is a passionately played and sung acoustic set of music. These two music veterans harmonize together surprisingly well, considering Olson's distinctive - and oftentimes overpowering - singing voice, who is best known for fronting The Textones. Wolfe is lesser known, but shines here for both his singing and instrumental skills. The album strikes a nice balance between originals and covers.

Of the cover songs, Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" proves to be the perfect vehicle for this pair's style, while "In A Misty Morning" recalls Olson's similar duet work with its writer, Gene Clark. Wolfe's mandolin particularly shines on the latter. Although acoustic sounds mostly dominate the 11 tracks, "If You Want Me" incorporates just a touch of jangling electric guitar. "Burn For You" is a rollicking (well, as rollicking as acoustic music gets) blues song. "I'd gladly burn in hell just to be with you," they serenade each other. Now, that's true love and commitment! The album closes with the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," one of the prettiest songs that group ever wrote, as Olson and Wolfe finely replicate the original's beauty.

It's a welcome rarity to hear music recorded this stripped-down. It sounds like a small band of players having a guitar pull while the tape rolls. Strong singing, strong presences and strong songs makes for a strong collection.