“My idea of a good time is getting in front of an audience and giving them more than they expected.” David Olney
The neighbour from whom we adopted Talya, having a spare ticket, asked me if I was interested in going to see David Olney & Sergio Webb at the Caravan Music Club. I jumped at the chance, as I have always admired David Olney’s song writing and was somewhat regretting that I hadn’t gone to see the duo at the Brunswick Music Festival when I had the opportunity.
The Caravan Music Club, in the heart of outer suburbia at Oakleigh, is not a venue I get to go to all that often. It’s just too far from home, which is a pity as it’s a great venue – quaint and old fashioned, with a pleasant ambience.
This was the first time David Olney has toured Australia. He is not well known in these parts, but he is acknowledged elsewhere as a pioneer songwriter of the Americana music genre. His songs have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Tim O’Brien, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Earle among others, and he was part of the legendary 1970s Nashville group that included Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zant and Rodney Crowell, who revolutionised country and folk music.
‘Two men on stage, one looking like a 1950s private eye and the other like he just stepped off a spaghetti western movie set. One a master story teller and the other an ace guitar picker.”
David Olney is not one of your dulcet singer songwriters. His act is riveting and gritty. His mode of performance is a mix of the spoken word and singing, as he takes on the characters of his songs. There’s the French Prostitute in 1917, the desperados in Wait Here For The Cops and Postcard From Mexico, the crooked medicine man in Jerusalem Tomorrow, to name a few. The music is more rock that folk and this is where Sergio Webb shines…
He can play the electric guitar like a demon, or delicately – drawing a cello like sound from it, as he did, when the duo performed 1917, a tender ballad set in Paris during the first world war. His style is flamboyant, scintillating to watch and he is a master of his instrument. He adds an essential element to the drama of the duo’s act.
I tried to note the set list but can’t work out the whole list. Songs included Upside Down, Little Sparrow (a song about Edith Piaf), If I Were You, Deeper Well (covered by Emmylou Harris on her Wrecking Ball CD), Go down Dupree, If My Eyes Were Blind, Covington Girl, Johnson City Blues and many more.
The opening act is also worthy of a mention. It was Bill Jackson and Peter Fidler, who were a quality act. Bill Jackson is a local songwriter and Peter Fidler is a maestro of the dobro. Bill Jackson’s voice and songs reminded me of Guy Clark most of all. Several were story songs, covering Australian History, for instance one song, called Jerilderie, was about the Kelly gang’s hi jinks in that town in 1879.
The David Olney & Sergio Webb show defies description. It was highly unusual, exciting, thoroughly engrossing and over too soon.
Check them out doing Wait Here For The Cops below and you’ll see what I mean.