Self-Release – 2017
9 tracks; 44 minutes
RD (The Real Deal) Olson is from Arizona where he has twice represented local blues societies at the IBC. RD has been around since the 70’s but this is his first release of mainly original material. RD plays harp and handles the vocals with Darryl Porras on guitar, Eric Williams keys and sax, Jamie Waldron bass and Robert Sellani drums. There are a few issues with the copy of the CD sent for review as sound levels are rather low, requiring an increase in volume but the final track, a cover of Muddy’s “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” is far louder, necessitating an urgent downward adjustment to volume levels! Despite that technical issue there is some good music here as all the players are featured across the album and RD has written some interesting songs, some drawn from personal experiences.
RD has a ‘conversational’ singing style, almost spoken at times, but it works effectively, especially on a slower tune like “I Miss New Orleans”, RD’s tribute to the Crescent City, Eric’s bubbling baritone sax and twinkling piano giving great support to RD’s harp. In a simple arrangement Darryl’s clean guitar lines are excellent on another NO-inspired tune “Petie Reed”, about a former girlfriend about whom RD sounds quite bitter (“looks as faded as worn-out jeans, girl stole her lines from the movie scene”). “Sheila” is a real toe-tapper as RD’s harp leads us into another song about a girl but this one seems to be out of his reach; great music here with piano, guitar and harp all to the fore. “Bleed Baby Bleed” is another rocker with strong sax and guitar.
Two songs utilize an element of rap in the vocals: opener “Baby Boomer Blues” discusses the crash in 2007 when RD lost his home, the song using “going down, down, down”, name-checking Freddie King, Luther Allison and members of the band, as a theme for the crash. The title track is about a girl who is being encouraged to keep walking away, RD using a rap approach to the chorus refrain. This device does not really appeal to this reviewer but other aspects of the songs work fine, notably the bubbling sax on “Keep Walking Woman”.
At the heart of the disc is “Johnnie Walker” which does reference the brand of Scotch but is in fact about the suicide of a friend. This tragic tale has some great playing from the whole band, Eric’s sax bringing a brooding tone to the extended slow blues and Darryl’s solo providing a dazzling centerpiece. I really enjoyed this track! To close the disc RD gives us covers of two of his influences: Little Walter’s “Up The Line” is an uptempo shuffle with a hint of latin rhythm and the Muddy Waters cover is played as a slow back-porch dialogue between slide and harp, RD’s vocals sounding distant and a little distorted, combined with the volume issue previously mentioned.
Apparently RD and his band are now backing Beverley ‘Guitar’ Watkins, so it may be a while before there is any sign of a follow-up to this disc but there is enough here to be of interest to blues fans.