REVIEW: Carla Olson’s “Have Harmony, Will Travel Vol 2″ is Exceptional Entertainment


Sometimes duet LPs work, sometimes they don’t. Carla Olson’s 2nd volume of duets Have Harmony, Will Travel Vol 2 (Sunset Blvd Records-drops March 20) succeeds on many levels.

I respect the efforts here by artists not usually of this genre. Some sound exceptional. Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) is one. His “Goodbye My Love,” – a U.K. song (by The Searchers) & with Carla Olson perked up my ears. What a good Americana performance. Noone should focus on a full LP.

I hope Carla tries a 3rd & include say, Chubby Checker (yeah, you heard right. His 1994 country songs “Honky Tonk Girls,” “Rowdy Country Boys” & “Take Me Back To Oklahoma,” are good. Carla Olson & Checker’s powerful voice – gasoline on a fire.

The LP has an eclectic 11 guests: Timothy Schmidt (vocal), Rusty Young (dobro, banjo, acoustic guitar), Terry Reid (guitarist-vocals), Stephen McCarthy (guitar-vocals), Vince Melouney (Bee Gees original guitarist), Ana Gazzola (multilingual vocalist), Jim Muske (singer-songwriter), actress Mare Winningham (vocals), soul man the late Percy Sledge, & the Byrds’ co-founder the late Gene Clark.

Not all songs were specific for this LP. Some were previously released on other Carla LPs. Some back to 1987 — Gene Clark’s “Del Gato.”

Other musicians (too numerous to mention) are listed on the inner sleeve. While there are impressive tracks, some are mere entertainment, a curiosity. Nonetheless, excellent playing is undeniably notable.

A chiming Byrds’ guitar is the attraction on “Timber, I’m Falling In Love.” Stephen McCarthy’s lead vocal (acoustic & electric guitar) with Olson. Richie Furay’s “A Child’s Claim To Fame,” is Poco-Eagles in tradition. Schmidt’s vocals & Rusty Young’s strings shine.

Carla Olson’s vocals overall don’t dominate much. But, on former Kingston Trio guitarist the late John Stewart’s “Shackles & Chains,” — it’s sung with vigor by Carla. It has sharp clarity by Vince Melouney’s acoustic & electric guitars.

Pleasures abound. Stephen Stills’ “Uno Mundo,” is exquisite. Ana Gazzola & Carla’s vocals with electrifying guitar work by Todd Wolfe & Mike Clinco is cool. Terry Reid sings “Scarlet Ribbons,” well enough but – not his comfort zone. He’s a far better rock/blues singer.

The songs are well-performed. This LP represents more the work of its ensemble. However, while melodies fall short of memorable; there is no vocal distinction. I’ll go as far as to say no one’s as colorful as the late Boxcar Willie vocally. He had enthusiasm, life, & joy. That’s missing. That’s not to dismiss this effort.

Carla tries to accomplish something not easy. From 1994 Carla & the late Percy Sledge on “Honest as Daylight,” — with former Rolling Stones’ lead & slide guitarist Mick Taylor has determined warmth & Sledge is exceptional.

Worth it? Proficient? Absolutely. Some of the 11-tracks had their own producers, but the majority is produced by Carla Olson.

Next LP should be “Harmony & Grits,” & go even deeper.

The 43-minute CD: available at her website & Amazon:


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