Memory Lane (and other songs of love and hope) by Olav Larsen & The Alabama Rodeo Stars (OL&TARS) has been five years in the making. Why? “Personal issues” are stated as being the reason for this long-awaited release. I really like the band’s two first albums, and they received some well deserved praise upon their release.
Perhaps it takes someone from such a great distance to authentically come to grips with the true breadth of Americana.” – Dallas Observer
I have been eagerly waiting on a new record from Olav Larsen and his companions. Is it as good as I’ve hoped for?
I’ll come to that, first a bit of history.
Olav Larsen was raised in the Norwegian town of Sandnes and introduced to his father’s music collection of blues greats including Blind Willie McTell and Robert Johnson which again led to Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. As Olav began to fine-tune his own tastes it was a healthy diet of Guy Clark, John Prine, Steve Goodman and Townes Van Zandt that he first feasted on, before turning his attentions more recently to Bright Eyes, Will Oldham and Howe Gelb among others. (press release)
Allmusic (introduction to the review of their first album):
You’ve got to love the back story of Olav Larsen & the Alabama Rodeo Stars. Larsen’s all-American alt-country, it seems, is made by an African-Norwegian who found his way there via records by Gram Parsons, Hank Williams, Neil Young, Uncle Tupelo, John Prine and the like. The Alabama Rodeo Stars? Never seen Alabama. Scandinavians all. But no gimmick, this.
Ok, that was the history lesson, so how is the new album?
It is a better sounding record that’s for sure. The sound is fuller and it has a distinct sound, the sound on the songs are more a part of a “whole album”, a more complete experience. The production sounds more professional. I do not know who has produced and mixed the album, but it sounds really good!
Apart from the production, what strikes me the most is the musicianship. The players are at the top of their game and they clearly have a genuine love for the music. It sounds like they are having fun. They have a great band dynamic and it often feels like it was recorded live in the studio. This is hard to pull off, but this band does it!
When Olav Larsen sent me the songs, he said, “I hope it’s not too country for you.” I replied, “Can it ever be too country?” He laughed.
There are songs on the album that are really honky-tonk, but there are elements of blues, gospel and rock’n roll all through the record. This isn’t slick Nashville or pure Bakersfield, it is a stew. It is a mix of all the good things in country music. This is real roots music.
Let’s take a look at the songs. 11 song about love in all it’s glory, and in all it’s misery. Songs you can only sing after you’ve lived some.
Let’s listen to the fine title track, Memory Lane (live acoustic):
Memory Lane (Studio version):