Kristina Olsen – Quiet Blue
CD review by Tony Smith
TN1480-16 – $25 Published in T&N 152 November 2022
For this album recorded and mixed in Lismore, Kristina Olsen plays guitar, slide guitar, mandolin and accordion, as well as singing the 13 songs.
She is supported by Scott Hills on drums and Al Hughes on mandolin and harmony vocals.
Olsen wrote 12 songs and shares the credit for ‘Move On’ with Sam Clay.
Fans of Kristina Olsen will not be at all surprised to find plenty of variety in the presentation of these songs.
On ‘Hey Did You Ever’ and ‘Loves to Let Him Ride’, mandolin is a feature.
In ‘Quiet Blue’, there are some compelling guitar riffs with a whiff of the Louisiana mud.
‘I had never been out of the ghetto’ is a recitative warning not to take a poor girl for granted, and features some driving acoustic guitar.
‘You’ll Spoil My Chances’ opens with drums and is in a jazz style.
In ‘Mr Right Now’, Olsen is at her cheeky best: ‘some girls might be looking for Mr Right, some future ideal, but she will settle for a man right now’.
In ‘Pirate’, there is some slackish guitar and a style suggestive of an adventure ballad.
It comes with shanty style refrain ‘to me way hey hey’.
Other tracks include ‘That’s a Secret I’ll Keep’, ‘You’ll Spoil My Chances’, ‘Fixing Up The House’ and ‘This Old Train’.
The final track, ‘Didn’t Think It would Happen Tonight’, was recorded live in Albert Park Yacht Club by Hugh McDonald.
It features some enthusiastic audience participation.
The sleeve notes make a mysterious reference to an accordion.
Olsen is photographed with a suitably mischievous expression in her blue eyes, but with a concertina.
It was supposed to be over-dubbed post recording but is difficult to locate.
These are minor issues anyway.
While the sleeve notes for this album are brief, Olsen generously provides music and lyrics to most of her songs on her website.
This is not surprising because Olsen is a keen collaborator.
As always, it is Kristina Olsen’s voice, complemented by guitar, which will win new admirers.
Sometimes she growls out the lyrics in vampish blues style, but at others, the delivery is close to the folk ballad style.
Of course, some tracks are slow burners while others rattle along.
The other impressive aspect of Olsen’s songwriting is that she makes her thoughts explicit and does not baulk at singing about sexual relations.
In ‘Love to Let Him Ride’ for example, is a bridge: ‘He unzips her dress/ the fabric falls aside/ he pulls her body close/ she says now take your time’.
This is certainly music for grown-ups, but Kristina Olsen has a playful and youthful approach which means there is nothing heavy in her songs.
We should all take our time listening to this superb songwriter.