Erika Olson – This Is How I Pray
Well, at first you wonder, “Yeah, right she sings & writes as well as Joni Mitchell.” Tall order. But with the first song “Mom’s Life,” Ms. Olson strikes out in areas other songwriters seldom breathe on. She applies her own poetics to melodies (like Joni) & becomes a modern-day troubadour — persuasive & endearing.
She has stories that appeal at first to women & sings through the eyes of a mother or a child recalling her 3rd-grade school days. Melodies are crafted with delicate fluency. I’d dispel any effects but the musicianship & vocals are stellar.
How she chooses her words is impressive. A descriptive lyricist who adds all the right intimacy to a composition. It’s a talent as acute as learning to play the guitar or piano. “This Is How I Pray,” is powerful — excellently arranged & performed. Tear inspiring. This is more in line with what Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris & Eleanor McEvoy. And that puts Erika Olson (vocals/acoustic guitar) in elite company.
On her 10-cut This Is How I Pray (Drops May 5-Ez Come Ez Go Records) Erika explores pointed topics but not with aggression but with cohesion. “Benefit of the Doubt,” has a strong emotive touch on learning about racism, tolerance & understanding. We’ve been down this road before, but Erika manages to convey through a vulnerable melody the sensitivities & allows the music to give moments value.
As far as Erika’s vocals – their exuberant always seems to endow her words with a wry style. Maybe it’s true what they say, smile when you sing & it will come through your voice. She sounds like she smiles through every track. There are serious tunes on a low flame as in “I Don’t Feel Like Fighting Anymore.”
Many artists write good lyrics but Erika paints with a broad literate brush. She provides “pictures” with every tune. She cruises through possible country songs but with no country-pop corniness. “Albuquerque Nights,” is one such example. It has the whispery voices of Emmylou Harris or Alison Krauss.
Produced in the UK by Jonny Wright (vocals/piano/bass/synth/percussion/acoustic & electric guitar) the CD has impressive clarity. Ms. Olson really should have a major label contract. The whole CD can be described as impeccable & conceived with imagination. On her Alison Krauss-inspired “As I Am,” Erika’s whispery vocal is engaging.
“Little Shoulders” concludes the CD & brings the LP full circle from “Mom Life.” Wonderful.
Highlights – “Mom Life,” “Hungry Little Bird,” “This Is How I Pray,” “Benefit of the Doubt,” “Wreckage,” “I Don’t Feel Like Fighting Anymore,” “Albuquerque Nights,” “As I Am,” “Mama Ain’t Got No Time” & “Little Shoulders.”
Musicians – Chris Hillman (pedal steel guitar) & Dan Raza (duet vocals on “As I Am”/acoustic guitar).
Color photos courtesy of Erika’s Facebook & CD photos: Aiste Salute. The 37-minute CD @ Bandcamp + https://www.erikaolsonmusic.com/