Up-and-comer Indie singer-songwriter Karyn Oliver has not played Los Angeles yet, “but, yes,” she says “I would certainly like to.” Oliver, originally from Boring, Maryland, grew up in the “musically diverse culture” of Washington, D.C. As a young girl Oliver learned to play the guitar thanks to the inspiration of such artists as the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, and Carol King. She received training in classical voice and musical theatre and would write her first songs before adulthood.
Oliver, presently working out of New York, has become a noteworthy new talent in the genres of Folk, Americana and Alternative Country. Oliver is yet another talent who prefers to keep the focus on her current work. Nevertheless, one interesting aspect to her career has been hosting WLOY radio’s “The Mobtown Couch” from 2005 until recently when she relocated to New York. The weekly show not only included her live performances but also focused on the talents of new and native musicians.
“Sadly, now that I am living in New York, I can no longer host The Mobtown Couch. But WLOY goes on, and still supports local and touring acts, so please continue your support of this fantastic independent, student run station.” Oliver’s music has also been aired on radio stations both here in the US and in Europe on such stations as WRYR, Radio Crystal Blue, Moray Firth Radio, The Upper Room with Joe Kelley, and Radio Parkstad. She has also played live on and Radio Midvliet in Den Haag.
Oliver would release digital “bonuses” or “sneak previews” of songs such as “Drag Your Angel Up” and “Isn’t It Funny” in 2006. The next year (2007) Oliver would take a break from performing to release her 12-track debut disc Hurricane. It featured the lead-in “America” and the popular title track “Hurricane”.
Execs from Sennheiser honored Oliver by asking her permission to use different songs from the release “to demonstrate the quality” of Neumann microphones. Oliver also became a regular contributor to the acoustic and Americana music scene in the Baltimore-DC area especially before her more recent relocation. In fact, the past President of the Baltimore Songwriters Association remains a board member.
Oliver would continue to perform both domestically and internationally. She would even make an appearance on Maryland Public Television’s “MPT Artworks”. In 2010 shortly after a recent UK tour and a successful debut at Boston’s most popular folk venue, Club Passim Oliver would complete and release her sophomore CD Red Dress.
The 13-track album would be produced by guitarist Thomm Jutz (Nanci Griffith) who would back Oliver’s guitar and vocals with experienced Nashville musicians including: Pat McInerney on drums and percussion, Mark Fain on bass, Barry Walsh on piano and keyboards and Peter Cronin and LeAnn Etheridge on additional vocals.
The work tends to feature songs about failing relationships or stories of women in less than perfect situations. The opener is “October Day”. This one contains both a tale of one woman’s trials as well as a more universal message.
“Right Now” is the second selection. This one takes the “Critic’s Choice”. Not to be confused with the 1991 Van Halen hit song, Oliver, winner of the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and 2011 Kerrville Newfolk Contest finalist, provides longing, soulful vocals are at perhaps their sultriest here. This song also contains one of the best lines on the entire album: “You kind of smell like sin”. (Your rascally writer really needs to stop drinking because he has no memory of when Oliver got close enough to smell him.)
It’s followed by “Drag Your Angel Up” which by your crusty chronicler’s revelatory reckoning reveals a potential Catholic upbringing in Oliver’s past beyond its specific story and one of the best cuts on here. The next number is “Candy Dish”. This also has some nice lyrical moments in the midst of a tuneful tale of melancholy.
“How Long Intro” is just what it says. It’s not really a track in itself. It’s simply a false start that Oliver—who appears to have a sense of humor—probably insisted the producer keep on the work. It literally leads into the song itself, “How Long”, includes a blues guitar intro by her producer Jutz. It certainly adds some variety to the disc.
“All The More” seems to be written to a friend in need. It includes a heartfelt, kind message. It is followed by “Happy Hour” and “Cry On My Shoulder” which further demonstrate Oliver’s abilities as an artist.
“Heartbreak In Progress” and “Be With You” are two more cuts having to do with imperfect relationships or perhaps relationships that once worked but does so no longer. “June Is Leaving” is also a troublesome tune in which Oliver considers the common with her own uncommon perspective.
Oliver, who recently was part of the 2011 Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Showcase, closes the disc with another highlight, “Baby Don’t Speak”, which is a playfully flirtatious imperfect relationship song. It was even recently chosen for inclusion on the new compilation CD Love Is In The Air! 2nd Annual Valentine’s Day Sampler.
While some have noted that Oliver’s point of view is often very much that of her gender, the work includes memorable music and deeply personal lyrics that anyone can appreciate regardless of any potential feminist viewpoint deep within the work. Indeed, the current album reveals a bit more life experience compared to the previous release.
Oliver’s material demonstrates growth as perhaps both an individual and an artist. Some of her music surely makes fans wonder why Oliver is not a big success “Right Now” and “How Long” until she is?
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.