A San Francisco-based bassist who played in John Wesley Harding's band, Jill Olson has got a whole lot working in the right direction on this, her first solo album. Loaded with big, jangling, rhythm guitars, crisp melodies and Olson's sweet and vulnerable voice, "The Gal Who Would Be King," is a pop gem with a country feel. Or as one writer described it, "Patsy Cline does Revolver". It's a very straight forward l0-song set, filled with harmonies and sparked by the irresistible album-opener "Conquer the World," the equally effective "Right Words," and an unexpected yet sparkling cover of America's "Sister Golden Hair." Olson first got noticed as a member of Bay Area Indie faves The Movie Stars at the dawn of this decade. She's richly deserving a closer look, and this album is well worth searching out.
It's not really the superkool black rimmed glasses that evoke
comparisons to one Buddy Holly. Of infinitely more importance
is Bay area musician Jill Olson's deceptively profound ability
to take but a small handful of chords, overlay them with smart and congruent
melodies, and ultimately fashion them into little polished jewels. No small
accomplishment, this. Buddy's "Peggy Sue" didn't immediately exit one's
noggin upon hearing it. Neither does Jill's "Right Words". After playing
with other Northern California groups, Olson sets her sights on the pure pop
throne with The Gal Who Would Be King on
Fullerton's eggBERT label. Other comparisons could be made to Mary
Karlzen, Carlene Carter's rock'n roll side and certainly the 1967,
Byrds in tone. (Try playing this back to back with Younger
Than Yesterday...) What makes this Olson's own record, however her humor and
the lilting sweetness of her vocals- driven along by her own bass, one quarter
of an exceptionally solid and complimentary four piece unit. (Plus one surprise
trombone.) These days, when you least expect it, someone comes seemingly out of
nowhere carrying the proverbial torch. She might hate me for my redundancy, but
I do believe Buddy would be proud. Jill Olson is king.
All hail eggBERT Records! While Greg Dwinnell and company wowed us with tributes to the Hollies and Bee Gees, their newest offering is a tribute to everything that's right about pop music. Iowa native Jill Olson's The Gal Who Would Be King is a perfect pop album from the opening snap of the snare in "Conquer The World" to the last sustained chord in the prophetically titled "I'm Not Done". A San Francisco resident for about a decade, Jill's a veteran performer who has played with the Stout Hearted, Red Meat, and The Movie Stars (whose "I can't See Nobody" was a highlight on eggBERT's head-turning Bee Gees tribute album, Melody Fair). Mare Winningham with her prowess on bass guitar (including a show with Mare at Luna Park that I missed which will certainly top my 1996 "Big Regret" list!)
The Gal Who Would Be King endeared itself to me through it's guitars that jingle jangle jingle, Jill's loping bass lines and the Byrds-like harmonies, but most attractive was her neighbor-across-the-way vocals. Imagine a more pitch conscious Cindy Lee Berryhill coupled with Iris DeMent having been weaned on The Searchers and Beau Brummells instead of Woody Guthrie and The Carter Family. The arrangements are sprinkled with magical musical moments: Scott Young's nimble trombone in "That's What You Said", the mandolin in "Post Of Gold", a "Then I Kissed Her"ish riff backs the delicate "Let's Go", and the Poco/Buffalo Springfield vibe that pervades "I'm Not Done". The lone cover is a much improved take on America's "Sister Golden Hair", in which America vocalist Gerry Beckley's aloof vocals are suplanted by Jill's far more passionate interpretation, an the gorgeous backing vocals are near Cowsill-caliber (high praise indeed!)
Repeated listening of this album come easily. It becomes a habit-- the day's just not complete without your 37 minutes with the Gal Who Would Become the Process Of Pop, Jill Olson.