Rob Oliver – Highs and Lows and Blues | Album Review

Rob Oliver – Highs and Lows and Blues  

Self-Produced/Roliver Productions (ASCAP)

CD: 12 Songs, 42 Minutes

Styles:  Harmonica Blues, Acoustic and Electric Blues, All Original Songs, Debut Album

Remember Julian Lennon? His 1984 debut Valotte put him on the map, containing edgy rock, mellow melodies, and laconic vocals throughout. Virginia’s Rob Oliver puts me in mind of him. His first public offering, Highs and Lows and Blues, would make John Lennon’s son smile. It sounds nothing like the hallowed recordings of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf or even Sean Costello. However, his unique twist on the blues is one that will last for a while. Combining expressive harmonica, gregarious guitar, and skillful songwriting, Oliver knows what will resonate with listeners far and wide. Traditionalists might search for something more, well, traditional here, but as his final track states, Rob is “[In With the New,] Out With the Old.”

Born and raised in Hampton Roads, VA, Oliver received his first guitar at sixteen years old and hasn’t looked back since. He developed his musical skills playing the alternative tunes of the ‘90s, as well as a vast array of rock and metal influences, ranging from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to early Metallica. Rob has been writing and performing original music for over twenty years in both electric and acoustic settings. His listening tastes have changed throughout his career, but everything continues to be a mix of what has come before. While he’s always harbored an interest in blues music, it was the Christmas gift of a lifetime – a harmonica from his mother – that led him to truly study the genre. Its flavorful musical textures are clearly displayed on his debut, currently being played on local radio and Internet stations throughout the country.

Performing along with Mr. Oliver (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, harmonica and keyboard) are Patrick Dermody on drums, Chris Brydge on upright bass, Dave Hufstedtler on bass, Sherri Linn, Pamela Jo Sward, Holly Kirsten and Jennifer Gammill on background vox, Ben Lassiter on dobro, Carl Olson on piano, Rick Anthony on guitar and background vocals, Anthony Rosano on electric guitar and background vocals, and Jason Cale on a guitar solo. Holly Kirsten also plays violin and cello on track six, “Everything I Need.”

Track number one starts us all off “On the Same Page” with some great harp and a good message: getting in sync with someone before beginning a romantic relationship. “Think For Yourself,” a true-blues counting song, contains a catchy chorus: “Think for yourself instead of me. I’ve let you down so frequently.” “Before the Ship Goes Down” is a shuffle and surefire hit on Sirius XM. “We could always get right back together,” sing Rob and cohort Sherri Linn. “Love can last one night or stay forever.” “Everything I Need” is a perfect slow-burner with just a touch of jazz, and “That’s a Fact” will have everybody and their dog singing along. “The People I Love” is a jolt of acoustic and electric adrenaline that’ll rip through you for the entire length of the song. Last but not least comes “Out with the Old,” best experienced via headset: “We’re always trying to save our soul, we always digging a hole. We always doing what we are told. We always out with the old.” Truer words were never spoken, especially in the digital age. This song’s both a celebration of novelty and a lament that what’s past is past.

Highs and Lows and Blues is an eclectic gem, full of wit and subtle grace – like Julian Lennon.

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