Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Olga (featuring Cody Dickinson) - Whatever You Want
I’m not sure if it is soup or salad.
With soup all the various ingredients are left to simmer until they meld into a dish with inseparable parts. A salad, on the other hand, mixes its ingredients up and pours a little dressing on top to hold them together. Yet, the salad even after assembly can be separated into its constituent parts. You can take the tomatoes out of a salad but you can’t take the tomatoes out of soup.
Sensuous singer, songwriter and guitarist Olga Wilhelmine Munding teamed up with the North Mississippi Allstars’ Cody Dickinson to produce her latest album entitled Whatever You Want. Cody is a hard electric blues rocker with a southern bent. He plays the type of music that you expect from the likes of Warren Haynes, the Allman Brothers or Derek Trucks. Thus, when I heard that Olga’s album was dedicated to her mentor the Mississippi blues great Jesse Mae Hemphill and Cody’s dad, the late Memphis blues rocker Jim Dickinson, I fully expected a scorching delta blues album.
So much for expectations. Whatever You Want is, of all things, more of a 1980’s style pop album and one of the best ones that I have heard. It has elements of R&B, rock, country, even trance. However, after a thorough listen I am still unsure whether Olga really is the epitome of the 1980’s song temptress or whether she merely chose that persona for a bit of fun with Cody over a shared guilty pleasure - 1980’s pop.
Olga and Cody play all the instruments and provide all of the vocals. Adding to the slinky, sultry, come hither affectations of Olga, Cody plays in a manner completely unlike what you would expect from the Mississippi Allstars star. He plays on about half of the twelve tracks wherein he supplies instrumentation and background vocals for Olga. Instead of Cody’s expected heavy electric blues guitar, he plays in a style that has more in common with Sade’s guitarist Ray St. John and Hall & Oates guitarist G.E. Smith. The approach provides a light touch and a mellifluous tone to each song on which he is featured and leaves you with a subtle feeling that the blues are in there somewhere.
Then there is Olga. Before Whatever You Want she had released three blues-based albums and had established herself as a New Orleans-based blues singer, guitar player and actress. This, her fourth album, is a huge deviation from her prior work. Her voice and guitar are no longer strictly that of the Delta Blues player. Here she evokes a bit of Stevie Nicks, a little Smokey Robinson, a touch of Debbie Gibson and a pinch of Laura Branigan.
It is intriguing. Which is the real Olga? Is she like a salad, with constituent parts that can clearly be identified? Here is her blues persona; here is her pop persona; and here is her 1980’s love song ballad persona. Are these just mimicry of others that can separately be identified? Or, is Olga really a soup where each of those styles meld together into one inseparable tasty concoction?
I tend to think she is right now on simmer, Some of the parts are still identifiable. I can’t wait to see what a little more cooking time and seasoning will do. It’s really good now, but, just wait until all those flavors fuse. Then, give her audience a spoon and get out of the way.
- Old School